The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

Statement Regarding Fall 2005 Bishops's Conference


November 14, 2005

Statement by Mary Grant
Western Regional Director of SNAP,
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
626 419 2930

Welcome to what veteran journalist Richard Ostling calls "the most secretive November (Bishops Conference) since 1972." We are of course disappointed that much of what bishops will do and discuss this week will take place behind closed doors.

If bishops can't talk about sex abuse openly, it's hard to believe that bishops will be able to deal with it constructively.

In fact, we don't believe they're really even trying.

Behind closed doors this week, we strongly suspect that bishops will spend considerable time this week strategizing about how to defeat statute of limitations reform in state after state. We base this view on several factors, including an unusually frank talk we recently had with a Catholic priest.

Two weeks ago, my colleague David Clohessy met a diocesan priest who recounted a recent conversation with his bishop and two fellow priests. The bishop was asked "What's on the agenda for the Bishops' conference in Washington?" "It's pretty much routine, nothing out of the ordinary," the elderly bishop replied.

Then he paused, and apparently opted to be a bit more honest. "Well, actually, we're planning to spend a lot of time talking about the statute of limitations," he continued. "The victims and the judiciary are out to destroy the church."

We're saddened by this, but not surprised.

All across the country, in public, bishops say all the right things. They apologize, they claim they've "reformed," and they talk about prevention.

But in private, bishops behave very differently. They work vigorously to kill proposals to strength archaic and weak child sex abuse laws, in state house after state house.

In particular, they fight hard against one year civil "windows," like California adopted in 2002, which give deeply wounded child molestation victims the chance to be heard in court, to expose our predators, to warn parents and to protect kids.

The California window has been an unqualified success. As a result of the legislature's wisdom there, hundreds of dangerous men have quit or left or been fired from positions of access to and authority over children, as teachers, coaches and ministers. As a result of the legislature's courage, and the courage of hundreds of survivors, we believe California is the safest state in America for children.

Other states are poised to follow suit. One chamber in the New York has adopted a similar "window." One chamber in Ohio has done likewise. Lawmakers in several other states are

If our suspicions are correct, the sad truth is that America's Catholic bishops have a lot to be secretive about. Obviously, they backtrack

It's one thing for bishops to make irresponsible decisions that keep Catholic kids at risk. It's much worse of course, for bishops to make irresponsible decisions that keep all kids at risk. That's what church officials do when they use parishioners' donations to stifle long-overdue legislative reforms designed to prevent future child molestation.

Two Associated Press stories on line today show an interesting contrast. One is the article we quoted earlier, discussing how secretive bishops are being at this meeting. The other if a story out of Massachusetts, about how the state senate just passed a bill mandating that churches be more open with their finances.

These stories show two trends, one is discouraging the other is encouraging.

The discouraging trend, of course, is the continued backpedaling of US bishops, away from their repeated promises of greater "openness and transparency" and toward the deeply rooted but self-destructive secrecy we all know far too well.

The encouraging trend, of course, is that our elected officials are slowly starting to do what church officials are failing to do - force some measure of openness. That's what the public deserves, that's what Catholics were promised, that's what families need, in order to be safe in their parishes.

Finally, we want to offer our deepest sympathy to the O'Connell and Ellison families of Wisconsin.

Dan's sister Kathy has been quoted as saying essentially "we want to finish what Dan started."
turned their grief into a campaign to protect kids.

For more information:
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director 314 566 9790
Mary Grant of Long Beach CA, SNAP Western Regional Director 626 419 2930


Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests