The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Catholic bishops to take second look at abuse reforms; 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])
Today, US bishops will discuss – and tomorrow they will vote on - a new draft child sex abuse policy.
Calling the proposed changes “minor tweaks” is charitable.
The National Catholic Reporter writes that draft changes are“little more than date and number updates and language tweaks for clarity.” The New York Times, Religion News Service and BishopAccountability.org reach the same conclusions.
This is terribly sad and disappointing on many levels.
First, the original policy was vague, weak and lacked any real enforcement mechanism.
Then, it was watered down by Vatican officials.
Then, in practice, it was often ignored by US church officials.
Then, in six or eight jurisdictions, independent law enforcement professionals and impartial grand jurors found serious and credible signs and proof that the policy was being violated.
Still, little changed. In fact, nine years lapsed, and not a single church official, as best we can tell, made a single proposal to strengthen it.
And over the past few weeks, in at least three dioceses, disturbing cases have arisen that have verified many of our worst fears about massive back-sliding by bishops in child sex abuse and cover up cases.
In response to these fresh scandals, for weeks, a number of bishops have promised to “re-examine” the policy. Evidently, however, those were hollow promises. As best we can tell, there has been little real discussion or serious effort to improve the policy.
We contend that, at a bare minimum, the church’s national abuse panel –called the National Review Board - should launch investigations into three dioceses that are currently embroiled in recent cover up scandals.
That board, originally depicted as a watchdog, has become a lapdog. It’s time those board members show some spine and stop letting bishops split hairs and box them into a tiny, ineffectual role that basically makes them complicit in the on-going recklessness, callousness and deceit still happening in so many dioceses.
If no one in the church hierarchy acts now, in light of these three alarming situations, bishops will only be emboldened to act even more irresponsibly.
(The real solution, of course, is greater involvement by police and prosecutors. But where that isn’t happening or can’t happen or has already happened, it would be very helpful if church officials – especially the National Review Board – would step in and investigate.)
We in SNAP believe that dramatic reforms are needed to better protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. But we still aren’t seeing any bishops really trying to improve even one provision in the policy.
We especially want to see the policy amended to mandate harsh penalties for any church employee from custodian to cardinal who ignore or conceals child sex crimes. There are no such provisions now, and almost never are those who “enable” child molesting clerics ever punished for their misdeeds.
Each diocese has a review board, entirely hand-picked by bishops, which is supposed to deal with clergy sex cases. But SNAP says church officials often ignore or mislead these volunteers. So SNAP proposes that bishops pick just two members of each board and those members be allowed to pick others to fill out the panels.
It’s sad that the few minor changes being made are largely dictated by Vatican bureaucrats, evidently not by a real commitment to safeguarding kids.
(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