The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Remarks Delivered by John Salveson, Head of SNAP Philadelphia Chapter
November 15, 2002
Many of the people standing before you this evening, in front of this cathedral, are survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic priests and other members of the clergy. We are here tonight because of our unwavering commitment to protect children from felony sex offenders, as well as because of our commitment to healing ourselves and helping those who have been violated and abused by the clergy.
We are members of SNAP - the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to support anyone abused by a member of the clergy, and to work to hold the church accountable for its actions. We belong to the Philadelphia Chapter of this national organization.
Sexual abuse by clergy of children is not only a criminal offense, it is also a spiritual offense. Sexual predators in priest's clothing rape the souls of the children they abuse. Their actions are violent and repulsive and the repercussions of those actions on abuse victims are lifelong and unremitting.
But many of us here today will tell you that we have been abused twice by the church. After our sexual abuse, we looked to the church and its leadership for help. We asked them to remove abusive priests from the ministry. We asked them to help us heal. We asked them to protect other children from abuse. But we discovered that the most of the bishops and cardinals who lead the church have chosen to protect themselves and their abusive brothers rather than protect and care for the children they have abused. We believe that this is the most profoundly shocking part of this entire tragedy.
This week in Washington, D.C., the United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops voted to adopt a revised set of Norms to govern
the way they will deal with sexual abuse in the church and the victims
of that abuse. These new Norms represent a major step backward in
the bishops' commitment to protecting children and helping survivors.
These revisions put the power back in the hands of the bishops,
diminish the power of the lay people of the church and create a
process which we believe will increase the likelihood that abusive
priests will be able to remain in the Church and continue to abuse
children. Almost as reprehensible as these changes themselves is
the bishops' public relations campaign to convince the public that
the charter has been strengthened.
In the handout that contains my remarks are highlights from the new charter that demonstrate how large a step backward the bishops have taken.
The net effect of these revisions is to return to the bishops the exact tool which created this crisis in the first place - their discretion. The fox is back in the hen house.
The church's renewed commitment to protect abusive priests and operate above the law is evident in more than the bishops' decisions in Washington this week.
I have asked Tammy Lerner, SNAP member, to share with you an overview of a legislative tool being promoted by the church to advance its goal of protecting its abusive priests from criminal prosecution.
As we will close this evening, we want to make some very specific requests of Cardinal Bevilacqua and the parishioners of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
To the people of the church:
To Cardinal Bevilacqua:
Thank you for being here this evening."
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests