The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Thursday, March 24, 2011
SNAP seeks congressional investigation into US Catholic military chaplains
Statement by Frank Dingle of Baltimore, MD of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (
Our armed forces deserve the best, not the worst. Our men and women in uniform deserve honesty, not deceit.
That’s why we’re so troubled by this list of proven, admitted and credibly accused abusive Catholic chaplains. We know it’s far from complete. But it’s long enough to make us feel very concerned about the safety of military families, now and in the past, around Catholic chaplains.
And that’s why we’re so troubled by the lack of real honesty about and accountability for child sex crimes and cover ups in the military by Catholic chaplains. Very few Catholic institutions anywhere have been thoroughly investigated by independent outsiders. And very few Catholic institutions anywhere merit such an investigation more than Catholic military chaplains and their supervisors.
Consider the power of a Catholic military chaplain. He enjoys an enviable status in two huge, male-dominated, hierarchical systems – the church and the military. He deals largely with younger adults, many of whom are far from home for the first time in their lives. Many of them are in danger. So they are even more vulnerable to an abusive cleric.
Many of them move often. And most child sex abuse victims are unable to speak up for years, if not decades. So by the time a youngster in a military family is finally capable of disclosing his or her past abuse and current suffering, often no one in the family can precisely recall who the child molesting cleric was or which base the family was living near at the time of the crimes.
These days, finally, the sudden transfer of a parish priest, with little or no clear explanation, often prompts some level of suspicion and discussion among parishioners. In the military, however, abrupt movements of staff are far more commonplace. So suspected offenders in the military chaplaincy are, even now, more able to escape scrutiny and detection than their colleagues in parishes.
So the abuse of kids and the cover ups of child sex crimes in the military is a serious problem.
We’re here today urging Congress to act. Time and time again, history has shown that Catholic officials rarely disclose – voluntarily and completely – the truth about clergy sex crimes and cover ups. History has shown (and common sense tells us) that only when independent outsiders with real power – to insist on getting secret documents from carefully-guarded church files and public testimony from top church staff – will more of the truth actually be revealed, more of the predator priests actually be suspended, more of their complicit colleagues actually be exposed and more vulnerable adults and innocent kids actually be protected.
Much has been made, rightly so, of the recent Philadelphia grand jury report. It shows, in devastating detail, that despite repeated pledges of reform, little has changed in the Catholic hierarchy regarding child sex crimes.
But it bears remembering that the Philadelphia report is no aberration. Virtually every time governmental officials launch a real investigation into Catholic institutions – in the US and more recently in Ireland – a stunningly similar pattern of recklessness, callousness and deceit is revealed. We have every reason to suspect that a probe into military chaplains would uncover the same horrific wrong-doing. Such an investigation is long overdue. Such an investigation is also the first step toward making military families safer from predatory priests.
(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