The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, December 2, 2010
Jurors to weigh more damages vs. church; SNAP responds
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])
On Monday, Delaware jurors will hear reasons why they should, or should not, levy punitive damages against Catholic officials for ignoring and concealing the horrific crimes of a predator priest. To safeguard kids in the future, and deter church supervisors from acting recklessly, callously and deceitfully, we hope a substantial penalty is awarded.
It's a sad but simple fact that irresponsible misdeeds will often be repeated until those who are responsible experience serious negative consequences. (Many of us would drive too fast and carelessly without the financial costs of traffic tickets and higher insurance rates.) But it's an equally sad and simple fact that virtually no Catholic staff members - from Cardinal to custodian - have ever felt personal loss or penalties for endangering kids, protecting predators, stonewalling parishioners, deceiving police, stiff-arming prosecutors, rejecting victims, threatening whistle-blowers, intimidating witnesses, or destroying evidence in clergy child sex cases. Until that happens, very little will change in the Catholic hierarchy with clergy sex abuse reports.
That’s what this jury can, and should, try to change next week.
Unfortunately, the church's ruling structure - from the Vatican on down - is unable or unwilling to take even a single disciplinary act, however minor, against even a single wrong-doer, however egregious. Again, not a single bishop who enabled and hid child sex crimes - no matter how many pedophiles or victims or lawsuits or settlements were involved - has had his hand slapped by a colleague or a supervisor. Not one. (Remember Cardinal Law? He voluntarily resigned as Boston's archbishop and was promptly rewarded with a prestigious and powerful post in the literal and figurative power center of Catholicism, where he is now more influential than ever.)
So it's being smart, not mean-spirited, to impose serious penalties on corrupt officials who show no signs of reforming on their own. Punitive damages are really about prevention, not punishment. That's why we support such damages in heinous cases of long-standing and clearly devastating crimes and cover ups like this one.
Two other points bear mentioning – the feelings of St. Elizabeth parishioners and the financial status of the diocese.
ST. ELIZABETH PARISHIONERS - Some may ask: “Is is fair for parishioners to pay because of a callous bishop and a predator priest?” But the real question is “Is it fair for alleged spiritual figures to act like cold-hearted CEOs and exploit legal technicalities so they pawn off responsibilities for their horrific misdeeds on others?” And “Should the bishop be able to act selfish and cowardly, take advantage of Chapter 11 provisions, and ‘pass the buck’ for child sex crimes and cover ups to the less powerful?”
If St. Elizabeth members feel anger, they should direct their anger at their church officials – current and former bishops and priests – who are self-serving and try to cut parishioners loose so they don’t have to face the music.
DIOCESAN FINANCES - Delaware’s bishop will likely soon cry ‘poverty.’ We don’t believe him. Keep in mind that the same church officials who will lie about their predator priests will also lie about their financial empires. They are monarchs and act like monarchs, with both their personnel and their pocketbooks. They don’t ever fully disclose their vast wealth because they don’t ever have to.
And let’s be charitable – even if Delaware’s bishop truly can’t sell excess property and do what’s right by the victims of his predator priests and corrupt colleagues, there are options. He can do what Law did in Boston, and borrow millions, if need be, from other Catholic institutions.
(It’s disingenuous for bishops to, when it’s convenient, claim to be part of a powerful world-wide institution, but then, in other circumstances, claim to be independent entities with no ties among or responsibilities for one another.)
Finally, years ago, most victims filed lawsuits to protect kids by exposing predators. These days, most victims file lawsuits to protect kids by exposing, stopping and deterring future recklessness and deceit in child sex cases. Most victims, like most Catholics and citizens, realize that Catholic officials have made only the most belated, begrudging and minimal moves toward reform.
So if Delaware’s bishop truly wants to protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded and protect his assets, he should start by taking decisive steps to safeguard children now. That’s what will prevent future lawsuits, trials and jury awards.
NOTE: More information about this situation can be found at BishopAccountability.org
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 10,000 members. 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, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests