Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vatican lawyer & spokesman try to ‘explain away’ damning letter; SNAP responds

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])

Once again, we mere mortals are told that we’re too dumb to understand the subtle and sophisticated Vatican document.

A Vatican lawyer claims it’s been “deeply misunderstood” and means “precisely the opposite of what has been reported.” And a Vatican spokesman says “That approach (concealing clergy child sex crimes) has been surpassed.”

Let’s look at these far-fetched claims. But first, let us remember that high ranking Catholic officials are almost universally smart, well-educated men. The notion that they can’t make their points understandable is silly on its face.

Fr. Lombardi, the official Vatican spokesman, says the letter “refers to a situation that we’ve now moved beyond.” (John Allen of the National Catholic Reporter makes a similar claim, saying that the letter is "another confirmation that, in the late 1990s, there was deep ambivalence in the Vatican about how far they should go in terms of reporting priestly sex abuse to civil authorities.")

Even if this were true, it’s a dodge. Time and time again, Vatican officials have denied telling bishops to conceal child sex crimes. Now, however, it’s clear that they did, at least in Ireland (and we suspect elsewhere as well).

A wife-batterer can’t, when caught, claim his crimes have “been surpassed” and walk away. All of us, morally and legally, must be held responsible for our wrong-doing, especially those who profess to be moral leaders.

And Lombardi suggests the church hierarchy now supports “collaborating with civil authorities.” But if that’s true, then why does the Vatican, even now, 15 years later, still refuse to accept the Irish bishops’ proposal to call police in child sex cases? (“To this day, the Vatican has not endorsed any of the Irish church's three major policy documents since 1996 on safeguarding children from clerical abuse,” reports Al Jazeera.

And why then, in 2001, did another high ranking Vatican Cardinal praise a French bishop for not telling police about a serial pedophile priest. ("I congratulate you for not denouncing a priest to the civil administration," he wrote. "You have acted well and I am pleased to have a colleague who, in the eyes of history and of all other bishops in the world, preferred prison to denouncing his son and priest." The priest was later sentenced to 18 years in jail for repeated rape of a boy and sexual assaults on 10 others.

Is there one nation on the planet, besides the US, in which Catholic bishops have clearly and formally promised “We’ll report all known and suspected child sex crimes to law enforcement?” More important, how many times have church employees – from Cardinal to custodian – ever been disciplined, even slightly, for ignoring or concealing child sex crimes? (We can only think of two such instances, involving only four employees, and their penalties were laughably light.)

Until there are real consequences for church employees who ignore and conceal child sex crimes, child sex crimes will continue to be ignored and concealed.

Let’s remember that it was only last year, after a series of stunning revelations of Vatican complicity in child sex abuse and cover up cases, that the Vatican issued a non-binding, one sentence “clarification” saying that bishops should report clergy child sex crimes to secular authorities in those jurisdictions that require such reporting.

That’s hardly reform – suggesting that bishops obey civil and criminal laws.

Finally, Lombardi, the official Vatican spokesman, makes the pathetic claim that the letter is “not new” and “has been known in Ireland for some time.” That’s ridiculous. Virtually every single news account says the letter is just now publicly surfacing. Such a contorted and desperate denial of the obvious from Pope Benedict’s spokesman is an insult to Catholics and casts serious doubt on Lombardi’s judgment.

Wouldn’t it be reassuring to hear Pope Benedict say, simply and clearly, “It’s now official and binding – every church member and employee must report every known and suspected child sex crimes to law enforcement. And every time a cleric breaks this rule, he’ll be severely disciplined. Period.” But he hasn’t.

And wouldn’t it be reassuring to hear top Vatican staff say “We were dead wrong to even hint that bishops not call police about known and suspected child molesters. We are deeply sorry.” But they aren’t.

So it’s pretty hard to believe there’s been any real change in the church hierarchy on child sex crimes and cover ups.

(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, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests