Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vatican Defends Pope's Record On Sexual Abuse; SNAP responds

Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach CA, western regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (949 322 7434, [email protected])

Pope Benedict XVI has been a priest for 50 years. He first worked at the Vatican 40 years ago. He has been an archbishop for 33 years. For decades, he has been among a tiny handful of most powerful Catholic officials on the planet. So for decades he’s known about many predator priest cases. But we see no evidence that even once he warned parents, alerted parishioners, called police, or urged other Catholic officials to do likewise.

So somehow, one letter he wrote about the defrocking process is now somehow deemed significant?

In the midst of a worldwide scandal involving the cover-up of hundreds of horrendous sex crimes across the globe, he writes one letter expressing concern that it "sometimes takes a long while to defrock bad priests." And his defenders claim this somehow matters?

How many children’s lives were destroyed before, during, and after the composition of this one letter? Where was the action to protect the most vulnerable in Benedict's care?

Since when are public figures judged by one letter in a long, long career? Since when do words on paper count more than actual behavior?

Let’s just start the clock in 2005, when Cardinal Ratzinger became Pope. As Pope, he became the most powerful religious figure in the world. He suddenly had massive power to take decisive action. He could have:
-- Ousted, demoted, disciplined or publicly chastised even one church official who ignored or concealed child sex crimes
-- Insisted that all US bishops post on their websites the names of proven predator priests
-- Ordered that every diocese in the world adopt an abuse training and prevention program
-- Required bishops to turn over information regarding clergy sex acts with children to police
-- Instructed bishops to fight for, not against, secular legislative reforms that make it easier to expose and convict child sex offenders.

But instead, he took no action to protect children, help victims, or heal his flock.

As a weak reaction to widespread media attention to child sexual abuse and cover up in the church, he's offered a handful of belated apologies and a few tiny, token meetings with a few victims. He has yet to take a single, significant step that makes a dent in this huge, long-standing, on-going and devastating crisis.

Benedict has made and continues to make gestures about - not proactive, tangible progress on - child sex crimes and cover-ups in the church. He makes symbolic moves, but not real reforms.

And what little he does is focused on the wrong end of the crisis – the tail-end rather than the front-end. Reaction has never saved a child from harm. Only positive, tangible, and swift action will ensure that our children are safe and victims heal.

Defrocking a predator priest is a tiny, belated, begrudging step taken by the church hierarchy largely for self-protection. It does very little to safeguard kids. So even if Benedict were slightly ahead of the curve in advocating this, that hardly makes him a reformer. It simply means that he’s not at the very bottom of a very large and corrupt barrel.

(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

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Vatican Defends Pope's Record On Sexual Abuse

First Posted: 12- 1-10 07:46 PM | Updated: 12- 1-10 07:46 PM

By Francis X. Rocca-Religion News Service

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI, while still a cardinal, sought in vain to expedite the process for defrocking priests guilty of grave crimes, according to a 1988 letter published in the official Vatican newspaper.

The letter, which appears in the Thursday (Dec. 2) edition of L'Osservatore Romano, could have important implications for the pope's record on child sex abuse.

The letter appears in an article by Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, the No. 2 official at the Vatican's Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts. Arrieta said it recently resurfaced during preparations for a planned revision of the Catholic Church's system of penal law.

Known at the time as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and in charge of the Vatican's doctrinal office, Benedict wrote in February 1988 to the then-head of the Council seeking a "more rapid and simplified procedure" for removing priests found "guilty of grave and scandalous behavior."

As head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the time, Ratzinger evaluated requests from ordained men seeking dispensation from their priestly obligations, including celibacy.

Noting that such dispensations were ordinarily considered favors to the petitioners, Ratzinger argued in the letter that, "for the good of the faithful," the dispensation should not be granted to the guilty before they had been convicted and penalized with "reduction to the lay state."

"Given the complexity of the procedure," Ratzinger wrote, it was unsurprising that bishops "should encounter not a few difficulties in carrying it out."

The response, three weeks later from Cardinal Jose Rosalio Castillo Lara, was sympathetic but discouraging. Bemoaning a "relaxation of ecclesiastical discipline," Castillo said the problem lay with bishops, who held responsibility to initiate trials that could lead to defrocking

guilty priests. Many bishops, he suggested, preferred instead to let the Vatican dispense such priests without a trial.

The exchange is relevant to a recent controversy over Ratzinger's handling of the case of Stephen Kiesle, a priest who was convicted by a California civil court in 1978 of sexually abusing two young boys. Citing the "good of the church" in a 1985 letter, Ratzinger recommended against granting Kiesle's request for dispensation from his priestly obligations. (It was granted two years later.)

Kiesle's bishop in Oakland, Calif., had failed to initiate a church trial in his case, which could have provided the prerequisite for dispensation that Ratzinger stipulated in his later letter to Castillo.

The process of laicizing or otherwise disciplining pedophile priests became much speedier after 2001, when Pope John Paul II gave Ratzinger's office jurisdiction over all cases of clerical sex abuse.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests