The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, October 1, 2009
Statement on Austin diocese and two proven predator priests who were sent here
For immediate release: Thursday, Oct. 2, 2009
Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director, SNAP-Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, PO Box 6416, Chicago IL 60680, (314 503 0003), [email protected], SNAPnetwork.org
We are members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org). We have two goals: to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
We're here, as we were five months ago, with two things:
First, news about another credibly accused predator priest who molested elsewhere and then was quietly sent to an Austin parish, and
Second, simple, proven, inexpensive common sense steps that can help heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
We're here with heavy hearts and flickering hopes.
Five months ago, we brought to the attention of Austin citizens and Catholics Fr. Gregory Patejko, who was moved to Austin in 1981 after abusing a North Dakota boy. In May, a North Dakota newspaper disclosed the allegations and settlement for the first time. That same month, we were here, urging the Austin diocese to try and find anyone injured by Patejko here.
We're upset because we've seen no evidence that Austin Catholic officials listened to or took action on our last requests. They centered on a predator priest who molested in North Dakota and was then quietly sent to work in unsuspecting Texas parishes.
Now, we have learned that more than a dozen civil child sex abuse claims – mostly in 2002 and 2003 - have been settled over the past six years against Fr. Rocco Perone. Perone worked at St. Austin's parish in Austin from 1957 until 1988. Most were in Oregon.
With a dozen settlements involving Perone, he becomes, as best we can tell, the most prolific child molesting cleric to have ever worked in this diocese. Yet there has been very little public attention here on him and his crimes. We are urging Austin church officials to work harder to find and help his victims.
It's especially important for church authorities to reach out to others who may have been hurt by Perone, we believe, because when he came here, Perone became a missionary - based in Austin but traveling throughout Texas to preach in other parishes.
This isn’t rocket science. The diocese has a weekly newspaper, a website, dozens of parish bulletins, dozens of employees and thousands of volunteers. With minimal efforts, the diocese could quickly and easily put out this message: if you saw, suspected or suffered misdeeds by Fr. Perone or Fr. Patejko, it’s not your fault. Help is available. Come forward. Start recovering.
Instead, the local church hierarchy continues to respond to proven, admitted and credibly accused pedophile priest cases in a timid, passive, irresponsible way. We beg Austin Catholic officials to "aggressively use its considerable resources to do what Jesus would do - go out and find and comfort the lost and wounded sheep."
This request isn’t unprecedented. In fact, just last here, right here in Austin, another church did essentially what we’re asking for now.
An Episcopal priest named Fr. James L. Tucker abused kids at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. The local Episcopal bishop publicized the allegation to the extended school community, causing five more victims to come forward. The lead plaintiff in the case ended up praising the bishop.
Finally, we’re repeatedly asked Catholic bishops, including Austin's former bishop Gregory Aymond, to release a full list of proven, admitted and credibly accused pedophile priests. We can’t imagine a more simple and clear and effective step bishops could take to help stop already suspended predators from assaulting kids again. Aymond refused.
We are now prodding the interim leadership of the Austin diocese to reconsider, and, for the safety of children, disclose such a list (including the offenders' current whereabouts, photos and clerical status.)
This request isn’t unprecedented either. In fact, roughly 20 US Catholic bishops (including Philadelphia, Toledo, Milwaukee, Baltimore and others) have, under pressure, posted on their websites these names.
Austin Catholics and citizens need and deserve to know who and where these dangerous and potentially dangerous men are.
Perone and Patejko are now deceased. They can’t hurt anyone any more. But history, psychology and common sense strongly suggest that here in Austin, there are very likely are adults who were molested by these two clerics who continue to suffer in shame, isolation, confusion, addictions, depression and self-blame.
They can be comforted. This is what the church officials can and should do. They should do it without our prodding and begging and pleading. They should do it now.
NOTE: Portland Oregon plaintiff's attorney Kelly Clark has represented a number of Perrone victims. He can be reached at 503-306-0224 & [email protected]
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747)
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests