The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, February 21, 2011
If kids are to be safer, heads must roll. That’s the bottom line.
Statement by Barbara Blaine of Chicago, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (312-399-4747, [email protected])
Firing those who commit or conceal clergy sex crimes isn’t enough. Serious, long term structural reform – both inside and outside the archdiocese – must also happen.
But first, Rigali should oust the most egregious wrongdoers. Unless he fires at least the most obvious, serious wrongdoers, anything else he does will rightly be seen as “window dressing.”
If complicit church officials are fired, maybe other church staffers will start reporting, not concealing, child sex crimes. But that virtually never happens. So since complicit Catholic supervisors aren’t disciplined for ignoring or hiding child sex crimes, many of them keep right on ignoring and hiding child sex crimes.
(By the way, suspending Lynn doesn’t count. How could he NOT suspend a cleric who faces serious criminal charges and has been found to have endangered literally thousands of innocent kids?)
Rigali should fire one of his new lawyers, his so called “victims assistance coordinators” and his long-time lawyers
For starters, Rigali should get rid of Gina Maisto Smith.
Last Thursday, Rigali hired Smith, his second new lawyer in less than a week. Smith has very close ties to the archdiocese which we believe will make it impossible for her to be effective.
She’s a life-long Philly Catholic. She attended a Catholic college. She’s on a board overseeing a Catholic institution (St. Gabriel’s Home) where a just-suspended predator priest (Fr. Stephen C. Perzan) allegedly molested kids) http://st-gabes.org/about/board-of-directors
She’s on the board of Catholic Social Services. One website says she’s “on the board of directors of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.”
These close ties can be found through a simple Internet search. We suspect that Smith probably has other close links to top archdiocesan staff that haven’t yet been discovered or disclosed.
Though early in her career, Smith was prosecutor, she now “defends corporations and individuals facing criminal investigation and prosecution.” and specializes in “assisting college, university, (and) corporate clients in managing misconduct allegations, with a focus on sexual misconduct.” http://www.law.upenn.edu/cf/faculty/gsmith1
Second, an impartial grand jury found that the archdiocese “continues to engage in practices that mislead victims, that violate their trust, that hinder prosecution of their abusers and that leave large numbers of credibly accused priests in ministry.” They concluded that “not much has changed” since a scathing 2005 report by another grand jury. They determined that the archdiocese “has betrayed once again” the victims who report to its staffers.
The archdiocesan abuse system, the jurors wrote, “designed to help victims is instead helping the abusers and the archdiocese itself.” It “is devoid of common sense,” and “reaches the wrong result in the vast majority of (child sex abuse) cases.”
It’s clear that archdiocesan lawyers are largely in the driver’s seat here. When the grand jurors conclude that archdiocesan staff “do the bidding” of church lawyers, things are terribly wrong.
Rigali’s lawyers must go. They are clearly the ones who do not question accused priests. They are clearly the ones who pressure church employees to get detailed information about victims that can later be used against them.
Rigali should fire them. He should have fired them long ago.
Finally, the grand jury found that the so-called archdiocesan “victims assistance coordinators” “misled victims,” “hound” victims for statements to “use as ammunition to impeach victims,” “do not keep victims’ statements confidential,” “turn over” victims’ statements “to archdiocesan attorneys” and “handed previously confidential” victim’s records “over to one victim’s abuser.”
What else does Rigali need to know? His “victims assistance coordinators” must go.
We don’t claim these individuals are evil. They could be well-intentioned. But they have deeply hurt and betrayed already wounded victims and already disillusioned Catholics.
Good smart people can be used. Catholic officials often exploit the professional achievements and reputations of accomplished, caring Catholics to gain credibility and to help them weather a clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal, only to discard them and disregard their input as public scrutiny wanes. That’s what we strongly suspect will happen with Achilles, Smith and others here.
But these individuals should be fired.
Again, firing one or two or three underlings isn’t enough. But it’s a start.
The Catholic hierarchy’s long-standing and on-going clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis is not the work of a few isolated individuals. It’s the result of a secretive, powerful self-serving, all-male monarchy. It won’t be fixed overnight or without tremendous external pressure.
Reforming secular laws is crucial, especially the predator-friendly ones like the archaic statute of limitations.
But for now, heads must roll here if kids are to be safer.
Rigali should be firing, not hiring, staff. The last thing he needs is more Catholic lawyers. If Rigali DOES bring on new employees, he needs to hire genuine “outsiders” and non-Catholics, preferably experienced therapists who specialize in treating abused kids, so that their bias will be toward preventing future crimes and cover ups, rather than in “managing and minimizing” crimes and cover ups.
We have three broader concerns here – process, perception, and reality.
First, process. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Philadelphia area kids have been sexually assaulted by priests, nuns, seminarians and other church employees, most of whom have been recruited, educated, ordained, hired, transferred and shielded by top Philadelphia Catholic officials. So it’s hard to believe that the very men whose personnel decisions helped cause this crisis can make more personnel decisions that will fix it.
Second, perception. Kids are safer when victims, witnesses and whistleblowers feel more able to speak up. But victims, witnesses and whistleblowers won’t speak up if they see the same complicit handful of top archdiocesan staff staying in power. So regardless of whether Rigali or Smith or Achilles or the so-called “victims assistance coordinators” are smart or competent, they’ll continue to be ineffective if those with information don’t trust these officials enough to share it.
Finally, reality. We agree with the Philadelphia DA and grand jurors that top archdiocesan staff (lawyers, bishops, victims assistance coordinators) are deliberately concealing child sex crimes and engaging in reckless cover ups. The reality is that keeping these staffers on board, or bringing on new ones who are very similar in background and outlook and allegiances, will guarantee more recklessness, callousness and deceit.
(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 23 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