TX--Priest gets life sentence in cold-case murder of Texas beauty queen
For immediate release, December 11, 2017
SNAP applauds the judicial system for according justice to second-grade teacher Irene Garza, to her family and friends, and for bringing her murderer, Father John Feit, to accountability after many years. This is a case that took nearly 60 years to solve.
From the outset, strong indicators suggested that Feit should have been considered a primary suspect in Irene Garza’s murder. But as we learned during this trial and as Reuters reports, Catholic officials leaned on justice officials almost immediately after Garza’s murder, asking them not to consider Feit as a suspect. Feit was, in fact, shielded for years by Catholic officials, though a former Trappist monk had known from counseling Feit three years after Garza’s murder that Feit had murdered Garza. This former monk testified about this in Feit’s trial.
This is a tragic case that illustrates in the starkest way possible the need for religious officials to be held accountable when people working within religious institutions commit sexual assaults. Again and again, we keep learning that the immediate reaction of many church officials is to cover up crimes like the sexual assault and murder of Irene Garza, and to shelter those working for church institutions who commit such crimes.
This case also underscores the need for anyone with knowledge of such cases – including, especially, victims of sexual assault by church workers – to report what has happened as soon as possible to criminal and legal officials, and not to church officials. Sixty years is a long time for Irene Garza’s family and friends to see justice done to her. It is very good that she and her family and friends have finally seen justice.
We can help to serve the cause of justice and to see justice accorded more swiftly in cases like this by seeing that legal and criminal authorities are involved from the outset, and that religious officials are held to norms of transparency and accountability and not permitted to impede the work of legal and criminal officials.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested in all institutional settings, including churches, schools, clubs, and homes. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)