Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New bishops document on abuse released; 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])

Little in this document is really new. Not surprisingly, it confirms the same tired, self-serving rationalizations that bishops began trotting out years ago. This report is the latest, and perhaps most shrewd, effort by bishops to shift blame and make excuses. They’re counting on us having short memories and being swayed by the patina of academic respectability.

As the AP reports, the document says that “homosexuality, celibacy and an all-male priesthood did not cause the scandal.” What did and does cause this crisis is clear – timid, self-serving bishops who are obsessed with their comfort and reputations, so work very hard to keep clergy sex crimes and cover ups covered up.

As the New York Times reports, “The researchers concluded that it was not possible for the church, or for anyone, to identify abusive priests in advance.” But the real question is: Why was and is it not possible for bishops to quickly oust predators once they started molesting? That’s what really needs to be addressed.

As the AP reports, the report claims abuse “peaked in the 1970s,” then began declining. This is perhaps the most absurd and damaging assumption. All but a few victims are only able to report child sex crimes decades later. Because of this inevitable lag time, it’s irresponsible to pretend anyone has any real sense of how many clergy sex crimes happened in recent years or are happening now.

Bishops desperately want us to believe that their long-standing, deliberate, repeated recklessness and deceit were just simple “mistakes” because they just “weren’t aware of” or “didn’t understand” abuse. That is deceit heaped on more deceit. Even more, they want us to fixate on abusive priests, not callous bishops.

Bishops are highly educated men with extensive staffs and resources. But even high school drop-outs have, for decades, known that child sex abuse is wrong, illegal and hurtful. Even teenagers know that we are to call police and prosecutors. But bishops didn’t call the police about abuse. And most still don’t call the police. And the Vatican doesn’t require them to call the police.

How much bishops knew about the causes or treatment of pedophilia is irrelevant. For decades, every one of them knew it was illegal. And nearly every one of them endangered kids by refusing to call the police or tell the truth. Nearly every one of them protected known and suspected child molesters instead of protecting children. Nearly every one of them used their position of authority and power to keep victims silent and marginalized.

What needs to be studied, but bishops ignore, is the inexcusable and on-going cover up of clergy sex crimes by top Catholic officials.

Wrongdoers often childishly point to other wrongdoers, saying “See, they’re naughty, too.” Such bald-faced diversionary finger-pointing may be smart public relations, but it’s morally irresponsible.

We don’t need Catholic officials to distract us about other individuals or institutions that have mishandled child sex crimes and cover-ups. We need Catholic officials to seriously reform their own institution and stop current and future child sex crimes and cover-ups. It’s unseemly for bishops to spend parishioner donations on a document designed to restore bishops’ shattered reputations when true reform, transparency and child safety do not cost a nickel.

We don’t need Catholic officials to distract us by splitting hairs about whether most child molesting clerics are pedophiles or ephebophiles.

Bishops brag that they have adopted policies and procedures. Recent developments, however, show how worthless those policies and procedures are:
--In February, a Philadelphia grand jury found that 37 priests with credible allegations of abuse or inappropriate behavior towards minors were still in active ministry, despite the fact that just days earlier Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali said that no priest with credible accusations were working in the diocese. Five men (four priests and a teacher) were criminally charged, including the monsignor who was responsible for covering-up for predator clerics.

--That grand jury concluded 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” and the policies and practices allegedly “designed to help victims (are) instead helping the abusers and the archdiocese itself.”

-- In New Jersey, a Catholic school employee (Jose Feliciano) was accused of improper sexual contact with a child and murdering a priest. Just weeks ago, it was revealed that, along with one third of the other parish employees , the alleged criminal was never fingerprinted or subject to a background check.

--In Kansas City, a priest named in two child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits within the past six months remains in a parish. (Fr. Michael Tierney)

--In Fresno, a priest deemed guilty by a jury of molesting a boy remains in a parish. (Fr. Eric Swearingen)

--In St. Louis, a priest who’s been accused three times of molesting at least three boys (none of whom know one another) is still in ministry (Fr. Alex Anderson)

--In Stockton, a judge has ruled that there is enough evidence to schedule a July civil sex abuse trial against a priest who is still in active ministry (Fr. Michael Kelly)

--In Wyoming, a bishop against whom at least six child sex abuse lawsuits have been settled remains a bishop. (Bishop Joseph Hart)

--In March in Boston, Cardinal O'Malley's delegate said that there were 40 priests who have been accused of abuse but never named publicly. To date those names still remain secret.
--Last year in New Jersey, a Catholic chaplain was ousted from his hospital job after a newspaper disclosed that he had been found guilty of molesting a boy in a criminal case in 2003. Although the verdict was overturned on a technicality, a judge ordered that the priest not be allowed around minors unsupervised (Fr. Michael Fugee), but Newark’s archbishop quietly put the offender in a hospital anyway.

Child molesters gravitate toward jobs involving kids. Institutions tend to protect themselves. So the Catholic hierarchy doesn’t stand out because of child molesting clerics. Its stands out because of complicit bishops.

Here’s the bottom line: Other institutions have also mishandled abuse. None, however, ignores and conceals child sex crimes like the Catholic hierarchy. Other institutions must do more to better protect kids. The Catholic hierarchy must do much, much more.

(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

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]) Feliciano's name appears on this list, but there is no indication that he had passed the required background check. Of all the names on the list, approximately one-third had not been fingerprinted, according to defense attorney Neill Hamilton

Mullaney testified that in 2009 the Diocese of Paterson, of which St. Patrick's Parish in Chatham Borough is a part, was undergoing an onsite audit of safety standards for employees and volunteers in regular contact with minors.

The Diocese of Paterson, Mullaney said, adheres to the standards set forth in the Dallas Charter, properly known as the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, drawn up by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002 and recognized by the Vatican in 2003. The charter was modified by the USCCB in 2005 and recognized by the Vatican again in 2006.

Among the standards outlined in the charter are that all employees and volunteers who have regular contact with minors pass a full background check, including fingerprints. They must also attend a safe environment program and sign a Code of Pastoral Conduct.

Before 2009, the diocese asked that all 111 parishes within its purview submit information on their employees and volunteers working with children to the diocese directly. The diocese entered the information into a monitoring program.

In March 2009, Mullaney said the diocese decided to ask each parish to appoint a coordinator who would be responsible for adding and updating the information directly instead of sending it through the diocese. "We thought this was a much more accurate way to maintain the database," Mullaney said.

Feliciano was listed in the database as a person who had regular contact with minors but had not fulfilled the necessary Dallas Charter standards, including the background check.

Mullaney said he was given an Excel spreadsheet after Hinds' death entitled "Youth Contact Eligibility List" by John Eriksen, who received it from Marian Hobbie, the principal of St. Patrick School.

According to testimony from Mullaney, this spreadsheet lists the names of various volunteers and employees at the school and parish with corresponding columns to show whether they have been fingerprinted, attended the mandatory training and signed the code of conduct. It also denotes in what capacity they work in the parish, such as youth ministry, religious education, etc.

The purpose of the list was to identify those who had regular contact with minors and see which of them had completed the requirements of the Dallas Charter, Mullaney said. If they did not fulfill the standards, they were no longer eligible to continue having contact with minors, according to Mullaney.

Feliciano's name appears on this list, but there is no indication that he had passed the required background check. Of all the names on the list, approximately one-third had not been fingerprinted, according to defense attorney Neill Hamilton.

"It shows that St. Patrick's in Chatham was grossly out of compliance," Mullaney said.

The list did not have a date on it and Mullaney said he did not know who compiled the information. "I never saw it before Father Hinds' death," he said.

"Before 2009, every parish was required to provide their information to the diocese. This Excel spreadsheet was probably how St. Patrick submitted their information," Mullaney said.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests