The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, September 9, 2010
Statement by Barbara Blaine of SNAP
Statement by Barbara Blaine of SNAP, 312 399 4747, [email protected]
We urge the Pope to disclose and permanently list on diocesan websites the names of all child molesting clerics—proven, admitted and credibly accused—so that their neighbors and employers are notified.
Most predator priests are suspended, but not defrocked, and live among unsuspecting neighbors, thus presenting an on-going public safety risk.
SNAP believes the simple and inexpensive sharing of this valuable information with the public is the absolute bare minimum Catholic bishops should do to help prevent future child sex crimes.
Roughly a dozen bishops across the US have taken steps like these.
There are two simple, compelling reasons why posting such a list is crucial: prevention and healing.
Unless bishops disclose the names of known and suspected abusers, they repeat the mistakes of the past and present, and put children at risk of more pain and suffering.
Bishops tell us they no longer shuffle molesters from parish to parish. But what is fundamentally different if, as they do now, they instead shuffle molesters out of the church world and into the secular world?
Many who abused youngsters as clerics are still doing so today, if not as priests, then as day care providers, teachers, coaches, tutors, or in other positions of authority.
Merely removing a person’s job title or assignment does not “cure” him or her of a deeply-rooted sexual compulsion to touch or rape children.
The least a bishop can do, once he determines a cleric has molested or is likely to have molested kids, is to warn others. This might be the single most effective step a bishop can take to prevent civil lawsuits against his diocese. Without a doubt, it is the single most effective step a bishop can take toward safeguarding other kids.
This is also critical because most survivors never even consider filing criminal charges; and those who do face antiquated laws that prevent the prosecution of most sex offenders. Because of these outdated and dangerous time limits, called “statutes of limitation,” most molesters never face exposure or consequences, and continue to hurt kids.
But what about the possibility of a false accusation? Three points need to be considered.
First, history has clearly shown that bishops move very slowly and cautiously in the face of abuse allegations. And common sense tells us it’s very hard for a bishop to yank from his assignment a former seminary classmate, a long time fishing buddy, or a popular pastor of a parish thriving on its face, especially on the word of one individual, a stranger, alleging abuse years ago.
For decades, church officials have erred on the side of protecting priests. It’s unlikely that they will suddenly reverse decades of well entrenched behavior and impulsively or flippantly remove a brother priest based on little or no evidence. (Indeed, with an aging priesthood, dwindling seminary enrollment, and a still-growing Catholic population, the pressures to keep priests in ministry are immense and only getting more so.) So when a priest is removed by a bishop, it’s often only because of overwhelming evidence, multiple accusers, and sometimes even an admission of guilt.
Second, the US church’s leading defense attorney, who has handled more than 500 cases of accused clergy, has publicly admitted that less than ten of those proved to be false. (See New York Times story by Sam Dillon, 8/31/02, at SNAPnetwork.org) There simply are very few cases which are not genuine.
Third, to be falsely accused must be a horrific thing—but there is something worse: actually being sexually abused as a child by a trusted, revered religious leader. Yet another step worse, of course, is being abused and then being disbelieved. So if one must err, doesn’t Christ himself tell us to err on the side of the most vulnerable – children themselves?
Who knows how many Catholic moms and dads kneel down each night by their beds and pray “Dear God, please help Ann conquer her eating disorder,” or “Please help Billy overcome his drug habit.” Many have no idea these damaging behaviors stem from their child’s molestation by a priest, deacon, bishop, brother, or nun.
If, however, that parent reads in the diocesan newspaper that his or her long time family friend, Fr. Smith, has been removed due to abuse allegations, healing can begin. That parent will likely ask his or her child, probably for the first time ever, if anything happened on those outings with Fr. Smith years ago. Even if the child doesn’t disclose his or her victimization, he or she will almost always feel better knowing that a dangerous person’s criminal behavior has been publicly acknowledged.
Truth-telling is also important because when survivors feel helpless, we self-destruct. In March, 2003, abuse victim Christopher Klump of Missouri took his own life after learning that the statute of limitations prevented him from filing criminal charges against his perpetrator. Sadly, we know of dozens of other such tragic cases.
On the other hand, when we are vindicated, when the truth is revealed and our abusers are exposed, we can truly begin to heal.
The bottom line is that some bishops and their defenders argue that to name names is mean-spirited and unforgiving. Nothing could be further from the truth. We can (and should) forgive our perpetrators. We can (and should) feel compassion and sympathy for them. We cannot, however, gamble with one more innocent life.
For the safety of our children, we must arm ourselves and others with the truth. The truth, as so many of we realize, will indeed set us free.
The bottom line: church officials can’t recruit, educate, ordain, train, supervise, transfer and protect predator priests, then suddenly and quietly ‘cut them loose’ when it’s convenient for church officials, while giving little or no warning to the public about these offenders.
And church officials can either make it easier or harder for parents to protect their children from these proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting clerics. It’s their civic and moral duty, we submit, to make it easier.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests