The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Sunday, January 16, 2011
Delaware parish announces effort to overturn Child Victims Act
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, [email protected])
Today at St. Catherine of Siena’s parish in Wilmington Delaware, the pastor announced a drive to overturn Delaware’s Child Victims Act which has enabled deeply wounded child sex abuse victims to publicly expose wrongdoers who commit, conceal and ignore heinous crimes against boys and girls. (See bulletin announcement below.) It’s wrong-headed and mean-spirited. Bishop Malooly should stop this move to put the secrets and cash of one institution above the safety and well-being of many children and victims.
We feel no malice toward Delaware parishioners. While their actions are short-sighted and parochial, we understand their pain. They love their parish and fear it will lose lots of money. Their concerns are understandable, if misguided.
Our beef is with Delaware’s Catholic officials who put parishioners in this tough spot by concealing crimes, transferring predators, deceiving parishioners, silencing witnesses, shunning victims, and endangering kids. Then, they exploited legal maneuvers (like the Chapter 11 process) to basically blame the parishes for the bishops’ wrongdoing in a selfish move to protect one another and avoid responsibility for horrific crimes and cover ups. Finally, adding insult to injury, top Catholic staffers refuse, even now, to ‘come clean’ and talk honestly with their flock about who’s to blame for decades of shattered children’s lives.
St. Catherine’s pastor says that “certain authorities. . .condone(d) or (knew) of these crimes.” But it’s cowardly of him to avoid naming them. We challenge the pastor to show courage and publicly identify the wrongdoers.
And we challenge Bishop Malooly and his top aides to show courage and stop this priest from politicizing the pulpit and use parish time and resources to fight against kids and victims.
Two facts warrant mention here. First, the Child Victim's Act applies equally to all institutions, public and private. Second, an impartial jury heard all the evidence and found St. Elizabeth's officials grossly negligent for what they did and didn’t do to protect kids from sexual predators. But it's Bishop Malooly who has ducked responsibility for the diocese's deplorable role in enabling the sexual abuse of so many of Delaware's children.
Martin Luther King once said “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In the US, and across the globe, slowly both secular and religious authorities are eliminating or extending the archaic, arbitrary and predator-friendly statutes of limitations. Those out-dated laws give child predators and their co-conspirators every incentive to intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, silence whistleblowers, destroy evidence, fabricate alibis, flee law enforcement and “run out the clock” on child rape. That’s just crazy public policy.
Two years ago, Barack Obama reminded us that the moral arc “does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own ways put our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice...."
Delaware Catholic officials are encouraging their flock to bed that arc in the opposite direction – toward protecting wrong-doers instead of toward protecting children. We urge them to reverse course.
(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])
SURVIVAL OF OUR PARISH (Effects of sexual abuse cases)
This past Sunday, Trustees were chosen to represent our Parish, Dan Barr and Dick Burnett. Monday, Fr. Hynes, the Trustees and other concerned parishioners met to discuss the actions that must be taken to protect our Parish and our rights as citizens in light of the three to 6,000,000 judgment against St. Elizabeth parish and schools. They will briefly speak this weekend after all Masses on the potential negative effects of SB 29, basis of the suit. You will be informed of the specific actions that we will be taking and we are seeking parishioners assistance and input in this endeavor. A handout with details of this matter will be given after all Masses. A more informative talk will be given after all Masses next weekend (1/22 & 1/23). A petition to alter the law will be available to sign, along with other means of action for you to choose. Thank you for your anticipated support.
You are probably aware from the newspaper of the recent trial in which St. Elizabeth's parish was found responsible for sexual abuse by a priest against a student in 1968-70. The penalty leveled was $3,000,000. It appears the parish will have to pay this, and probably further similar penalties by selling its property, i.e., the school and possibly the Church. This is of course being appealed. What are we to think? Similar suits, by the very same mechanism, have been filed against at least 6 other parishes, including St. Catherine’s. Here are my thoughts and convictions.
▪ The negligence in assigning abusive priests belongs to the diocesan authorities, not the parishes.
▪ If parishes are to be held accountable by courts, it must be shown, by evidence, that the parish authorities, i.e., the pastor, knowingly covered up or allowed such abuse to take place.
▪ Since over 40 years have passed since the above events occurred, the key witness, i.e., the pastor, is dead, and contradictory “memories” were cited. This very fact shows the hazard of revoking statues of limitations; can there be a fair trial after so much time has passed?
▪ In some states, non-profit organizations are protected from being wiped out by suits. In others, caps are set on damages. In addition, it made no provision for arbitration before trials (most damage suits are settled this way).
▪ Public institutions, including schools are exempted from these suits. Why the public and not the private schools?
▪ For all these reasons, I consider the law flawed and unconstitutional. Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests deserve legal redress and the monetary recompense to meet expenses of therapy and lost work. But the Catholic people, who are the Church, did not condone or even know of these crimes. Only certain authorities did. Penalties should come from diocesan funds. Penalizing their parish or school out of existence is a miscarriage of justice. Two wrongs do not make a right. In all candor, I think you need to know these things in order to make sense of what is happening.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests