Diocese of Springfield Wants to Hire New Investigator for Clergy Abuse Claims
Catholic officials in Springfield, MA are looking to hire a new internal investigator to review reports of clergy sexual abuse. We suggest that they instead should turn all allegations over to trained law enforcement and leave the investigating to secular professionals.
Ultimately, this is just another instance of Catholic officials implying that one new person or policy or protocol will solve the Church's continuing abuse and cover up scandal. But the "P" word that these officials ignore is "punishment." Until Church leaders choose to punish those who ignore or conceal clergy sex crimes, little will change, regardless of who is hired to investigate allegations.
A concerning element of this story is that the internal investigator will report their findings to the Diocesan Review Board, but that Review Board only “might” hear testimony from the alleged victim. It is dis-empowering to victims to have their testimony filtered through the lens of a diocesan employee. If anything, the Review Board should be hearing from alleged victims themselves instead of some outside authority when discussing that survivor’s “credibility.”
One need only look at the history of this position to understand why we are concerned about internal investigators. The last investigator hired by Church officials in Springfield left following a “disagreement” with the review board about whether or not testimony was given to them from an alleged victim. That survivor says he gave testimony, but internal Church officials did not agree. This is but a microcosm of the issues that belie every internal Church “investigation.” It is notable as well that the Hampden Country District Attorney’s office set up their own clergy abuse hotline after seeing discrepancies in what was reported publicly by the Church versus what had been reported to the DA by victims.
We hope that any victim, witness, or whistle-blower in Springfield will choose to make a report to local police and prosecutors first before making any report to diocesan officials. This is the best way to ensure that reports are made to the people best equipped to investigate them.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 517-974-9009)
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)