Together we can do what we can’t do alone

Yesterday in The Hague, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) took a historic step when our leaders, with attorneys from the human rights organization, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), filed a long-awaited and long-overdue, lengthy and detailed complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) against the Vatican for crimes against humanity.  This complaint charges that Vatican officials tolerate and enable the systematic and widespread concealing of rape and child sex crimes throughout the world.  In calling for investigation, we submitted over 20,000 pages of supporting materials, consisting of reports, church policy papers and evidence of crimes by Catholic clergy committed against children and vulnerable adults.

Persons named specifically in the complaint as bearing the greatest responsibility for a system of sexual violence in the church are:

1)    Pope Benedict XVI, both in his capacity as Pontiff and formerly as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which oversees the handling of allegations of sexual assault by priests;
2)    Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the current Dean of the College of Cardinals, and former Vatican Secretary of State;
3)    Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, current Secretary of State; and,
4)    Cardinal William Levada, the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

And, why are we doing this?  It is because we are passionately committed to protecting vulnerable children and adults, and we know that the best way to protect the vulnerable is when we hold responsible those who enable hundreds or thousands of serial predators to continue inflicting devastating violence on innocent kids and adults.  We do this by exposing wrongdoers, uncovering secrets, and deterring future cover-ups and sexual violence by powerful clergy.

We're concerned also about those who suffer today because of childhood victimization by clergy, and believe that the current effort will give hope, courage and opportunity to victims across the world, most of whom have never had a chance to warn others about their perpetrators, to speak up, report their abuse and stop those predators from molesting others.

Members of SNAP have been speaking up and working for prevention, justice, healing and truth-telling for a long time. We've seen, time and time again, what does NOT protect kids or bring change: victims staying silent, families trusting bishops, police deferring to bishops, and people assuming that just exposing wrongdoing will stop wrongdoing, or that replacing older bishops with newer bishops will bring about change, or that paying financial settlements alone will bring about reform.  They don't.

Police, prosecutors and governmental authorities must step up if kids are to be safe in the church.  WE MUST STEP UP. When SNAP started 23 years ago, we had no idea how widespread sexual violence by clergy was and how far the cover-up truly goes.

We had no idea, even two years ago, that in just a few months' time, thousands and thousands of clergy sex victims in Europe would suddenly break decades of silence and step forward.

In the past few years, two states have adopted civil window legislation, enabling hundreds of victims to expose hundreds of dangerous predators. This has yet to happen in Colorado, but our time is coming.

Our movement has always been guided by what will best protect kids, not what conventional wisdom considers politically safe or possible. Therefore, we need to continue pressuring our elected officials to eliminate archaic civil statutes of limitation for sexual assault against children, and to provide a window of justice for those who have been denied access to the proven American justice system by these predator-friendly laws.

Criminal cover-up by church leaders of the sexual exploitation of children and vulnerable adults, male and female, in all denominations and religions is as well-documented a fact as the exploitation itself.

The biggest problem today seems to be that too many of us are uncomfortable with or afraid to speak up about our knowledge of these horrific crimes against humanity. And, too many religious leaders exercise an intimidating power and control over their followers, most of which is entirely emotional—but as manipulative as it is, it has proven to be amazingly effective.

From this point on, we must not be afraid to expose the truth about criminal activity, and we must support and encourage others to act on the truth. Believe me, OUR TRUTH IS OUR STRENGTH.

While all religions teach some version of "the truth will set you free," and "do no harm," deception and abuse of power, position and authority continue. To ever expect that the Mafia or the Roman Catholic hierarchy or any other corrupt organization will reform itself is the kind of insanity we need to smash if kids are to be safer.

This is an idea that must be smashed, because nearly everything they have done so far seems calculated to help them continue as they have for centuries, living a lie and brain-washing generation upon generation to believe, that is trust in, their lies.

Perhaps the biggest Roman Catholic lie uncovered in our day is the hypocrisy of celibacy, which literally means “unmarried.” This one is indeed serious because it has led parents to believe that children are safe with Catholic nuns, priests, bishops or deacons, even lay leaders and employees.  I, for one of hundreds of thousands, can tell you that THIS JUST ISN’T TRUE! 

So, I ask you to please join me in protecting kids.

We are calling on anyone and everyone with any knowledge or suspicion of crimes against children, old or new, to contact local law enforcement and prosecutors, not the church, and to contact SNAP at 1-800 SNAPHEALS or visit our website 

We will soon be announcing local support group meetings, and we ask your help in finding a meeting space in Denver.  Please email us at for information or visit the SNAP website,

Together we can do what we can’t do alone.

Somehow, systematic rape, sodomy, violence and cover up must be addressed, and who better to do so than the International Criminal Court? Yesterday was a great beginning.

Secular authorities must, and we too, must act now!

Showing 3 comments

  • Jeb Barrett
    commented 2011-09-15 11:50:05 -0500
    Thanks, John. You said a real mouthful, and it is certainly my hope that we will see some real accountability in our lifetime. Yes, I am hopeful about the prospect of the world seeing things as they really are and people everywhere taking back the power to think and act on their own knowledge and conscience in all matters. You and I have learned to speak the truth, to label things for what they are, and we have discovered that, yes, “Our truth is our strength.” This was the theme of my first Annual SNAP Conference in 1991 in Denver, and I have held onto speaking truth ever since then.
  • John M Shuster
    commented 2011-09-15 10:07:48 -0500
    Great writing Jeb! There are many victim/survivors of clergy sexual abuse who find it difficult to report and find help. For example, Portugal is 97% Roman Catholic. We are not aware of any public reports of clergy sexual abuse in Portugal. The church controls many aspects of Portuguese society. If survivors went public with their abuse by a priest, they would suffer persecution and be ostracized. The same situation exists in third world countries where church power is unchallenged. In some countries in Africa, the church is so powerful that we have read in the international press how priests rape nuns with impunity in these remote areas. SNAP’s appeal to The Hague gives hope to trapped and terrified survivors. If they can get to a computer and access the SNAP website, which is now multi-lingual, they can report their abuse to the International Criminal Court through our SNAP web site and experience a glimmer of light at the end of a dark tunnel.
  • Jeb Barrett
    published this page in Media Statements 2011-09-14 14:15:00 -0500

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