Vatican- It's wrong for pope to ask forgiveness, SNAP says

For immediate release: Friday, April 11, 2014

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, [email protected])

Pope Francis says he felt “called to take upon himself” the subject of clergy sex crimes and cover ups. He should. He is the world's only global monarch and he continues to let this decades-old crisis fester and build by refusing to take even a single step that protects a single child or exposes a single wrongdoer.

Reuters says he is “using some of his strongest words yet” and Religion News Service says “in his strongest personal remarks yet. . .”

But if a husband keeps beating his wife, the tone, tenor or length of his words are irrelevant.

Words – whether few or many, vague or clear, weak or strong – do absolutely nothing for the boy who is being sodomized today or the girl who is being raped today. They do nothing to divulge even one carefully-hidden church record about a complicit bishop. They do nothing to help fix archaic, predator-friendly secular laws. They do nothing of substance, especially now, especially in this context: a scandal-ridden, secretive, self-serving church hierarchy that wants to pretend real change is happening.

Nice words are especially meaningless and disingenuous when uttered by a powerful man who could instead make practical reforms.

We agree with Pope Francis that Catholic officials understand, to some extent, the damage that has been done. Sadly, that understanding has lead to little real change.

And the damage is still being done. It's disingenuous to pretend, by using the past tense, that kids are not being sexually violated and predators are not being transferred and cover ups are not being perpetuated right now.

The Pope also asked for forgiveness today. We believe it is dreadfully duplicitous for the Pope to ask forgiveness from hundreds of thousands of suffering victims and millions of betrayed Catholics while doing virtually nothing to spare hundreds of at-risk kids from heinous sexual violence right now.

Forgiveness is a private individual choice. The pope however is a public figure. He has the ability to take bold steps that will reduce the need for forgiveness by safeguarding innocent kids and vulnerable adults from predator priests and complicit bishops. That’s what he must do. That’s what he refuses to do.

It is irresponsible to talk 'forgiveness' while the deranged gunman is still shooting or while the drunk driver is still hitting pedestrians. Let's discuss forgiveness when innocent kids are no longer being assaulted, when wounded adults are no longer being deceived, when shrewd predators are no longer in parishes and when callous bishops are no longer being promoted and when secular laws are reformed. Until then, talk of forgiveness is at best, premature, and at worst, a self-serving distraction from the real work to be done: stopping kids from being severely hurt.

Finally, we do not criticize the pope for refusing to meet with victims. Such a meeting, like papal comments, would do nothing, in any practical way, to help anyone, except the Pope himself. It would make some temporarily feel good. It would not signify or lead to reform. (Francis admits understanding the “damage.”) It would likely lead to more complacency, not more vigilance and change.

(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 25 years and have more than 15,000 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

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003, [email protected])


Showing 15 comments

  • Michael Hannah
    commented 2014-04-24 13:27:45 -0500
    i have never been abused by a priest neither am i a member of snap but i do follow jesus christ and went to the catholic church for five years and was practically thrown out for having strong opinions about pedophiles.
  • Get Real
    commented 2014-04-23 23:55:08 -0500
    SNAP acts like nothing has changed, yet the number of credible claims of abuse that occurred last year (not decades ago) can be counted on one hand. No one can say that about any other institution. SNAP just wants to keep whipping up the same anti-Catholic hysteria probably to expand their coffers.

    Yes, I know what it is like for young people who have been sexually abused. I help facilitate their treatment. I get their pain. I advocate on their behalf, but I don’t tell half-truths like SNAP.

    David Clohessy and Barbara Blaine why don’t you come clean about your own failures to protect children?
  • Isaiah Bennett
    commented 2014-04-23 14:18:25 -0500
    Ms. Halter asserts: “… these crimes are being committed non-stop, round the clock, globally.” I was under the impression that reliable statistics for the last decade or so have shown a precipitous drop in such crimes involving Catholic clergy. (Crimes against children involving, say, public school teachers, youth group leaders, and others: the stats are not as encouraging.) I’m eager to have Ms. Halter point us to the sources of her statement. One instance of child abuse is loathsome and criminal; I would not want to see its tragedy lost in a breathless assertion that it is but one instance in some amorphous and unfounded allegation.
  • Michael Hannah
    commented 2014-04-13 14:49:14 -0500
    if the catholic church preached repentance as much as it did forgiveness then i’m sure we would live in a better world. what is the point of forgiving somebody who will only repeat the same crime. leonard cohen = when they said repent i wonder what they meant .
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-11 22:57:06 -0500
    Mr. Polte,
    What I would add to your comment about what is wanted not being revenge, but rather JUSTICE, is that personally, I also seek an END and the FUTURE PREVENTION of these heinous crimes and this scourge, being of and in the catholic church.
  • Larry Polte
    commented 2014-04-11 22:26:57 -0500
    Mathew- wait for what? Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds? Wait for the pope to develop a conscience? Wait for him to get a clue? Again, wait for what? I really have no understanding of where people like you come from. This is not rocket science. There is no need for commissions or waiting for the leader of the Catholic church to decide what to do. Here is a novel idea. Pedophilia is WRONG! Covering up for pedophiles is WRONG! Making those who were abused suffer the abuse again in court is WRONG. It is no where as complicated as people like you want to believe.

    Turn all church records that have anything to do with abuse over to local authorities and cooperate in all ongoing and past abuse cases. Don’t you get it? We are talking about mentally and sexually abusing CHILDREN! Can’t you understand what a heinous crime that is? Where is your human compassion? Where is your morality? To equate all this with the abused just wanting revenge does make you a vile human being. Trust me, there is no revenge for ANY of the abused that will change the past. What I and many of the abused are asking for is simple JUSTICE and if you really cannot understand that, than I feel very sorry for you and I thank God that after everything is said and done, I still have the ability to feel compassion and that I still have some shred of humanity left in me………..
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-11 21:42:10 -0500
    Thirdly, Mr. Clohessy, I beg of you to please submit this exact same post you have so passionately and articulately written, to ALL MEDIA OUTLETS, tonight. Send it to all the US network news channels, API, Reuters, the BBC; the media in Ireland and Australia and everywhere there is a reputable news network. Please don’t abandone your struggle and fight here and now. As you have pointed out, the pope is a global leader and these crimes are being committed non-stop, round the clock, globally. Please tell Mrs. Blaine and Mrs. Dorris, that NOW IS THE TIME TO RESPOND TO THE POPE’S DUPLICITIOUS REQUEST FOR FORGIVENESS. IT IS the time, FOR ALL CATHOLICS AND INTERESTED, DECENT PEOPLE TO HEAR AND KNOW THAT THERE IS no excuse FOR ANY OF THESE CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY TO CONTINUE UNSTOPPED IN the catholic church. NO EXCUSE! Please make your voices HEARD NOW. MAKE THEM HEARD BEYOND THE WEBSITE OF SNAP. MAKE THE VATICAN hear and know.
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-11 21:27:24 -0500
    If I had the opportunity to say more than a simple “No.” in response to the pope on the subject of his request for forgiveness for the clergy who committed the heinous pedophile crimes against catholic humanity and these bishops and popes who abetted them and enabled them to continue drugging, raping and sodomizinig innocent children and disabled adults allegedly in the name of God, I would tell him to re-read the words of Christ as recorded in: Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2. I will type Matthew 18:6, here: But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it were better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Not even Christ, through the Holy Spirit, nor God himself tells us to forgive these particular pedophile criminal perpetrators, enablers and conspirators. No.
  • Lani Halter
    commented 2014-04-11 21:08:04 -0500
    My response to the pope’s request, is: No.
  • Paul Wagner
    commented 2014-04-11 17:53:42 -0500
    Mathew, I think you’re confusing “revenge” with “justice”. I’ve never seen a post that said there should be vigilante justice on these pedophiles masquerading as religious leaders. The site just continues to point out the lack of any significant change in church policy to help avoid future abuse.
  • Michael Ference
    commented 2014-04-11 17:19:21 -0500
    Here’s a Pulitzer waiting to be won. Mayor Bill Peduto has referred information I sent to him and the Pittsburgh Diocese about a former priest drugging and possibly raping and sodomizing a former University of Pittsburgh student to Allegheny County DA Stephen Zappala. Read it for yourself. Most reporters are afraid of the BIG story.

    From: Gittlen, Grant [mailto:[email protected]]
    Sent: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 7:48 AM
    To: [email protected]
    Subject: Re: Concerned about referring information to DA Zappala.

    Mr. Ference,

    Again, thank you for your email to Mayor Peduto. We have sent everything you have passed to us to the Allegheny County District Attorney. If you do not believe this is the appropriate outlet than please feel free to direct your information towards other levels of law enforcement.

    Thank you,


    On Tue, Apr 8, 2014 at 4:11 AM, <[email protected]> wrote:
    Mr. Gittlin,

    I’m very concerned about referring the matter to DA Stephen Zappala. With all the investigations going on in Allegheny County and the fact that DA Zappala has been aware of this case for years, I think the Pittsburgh Branch of the FBI may be better suited to sort things out. Attached is a letter from former Senator Jane Orie advising him DA Zappala to review the alleged criminal information that I had. Nothing was done.

    Also, DA Zappala sits on the review board for the US Bishops Conference that reviews clergy sex abuse crimes, truly a conflict of interest. Another conflict of interest is former PA Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Zappala Sr. sits on the Pittsburgh Diocesan review board that makes determinations on the credibility of clergy sex abuse cases. Another obvious conflict of interest.

    I think the alleged charges that I presented to the Mayor’s office are at least as serious as the $200,000 in missing items from various locations in the city/county building that the mayor turned over the Pittsburgh Branch of the FBI. I think my allegations should also be turned over to the FBI.

    Again, I want to thank you for you time and everyone involved in this matter. Please respond that you did receive this message and were able to open the attachment.

    Warm regards,

    Mike Ference
  • Matthew Carlatoni
    commented 2014-04-11 17:09:48 -0500
    Larry – It’s unfortunate that you believe me to be a “vile human being” and then two sentences later chastise me for passing judgement on others. I am not clueless to the dynamics of clergy abuse or the sins of the Church in this regard. The Pope has made a first step in accountability in the clergy abuse scandal — let’s wait and see how his approach and actions develop and unfold before YOU pass judgement. You also seem to be woefully mistaken about my credentials as well as my personal experience with clergy abuse. Your anger and vitriolic response to my previous post ultimately proves the very point that I made in said post. As I alluded to in my previously, revenge blinds us to true justice. May God be with you in your pain and suffering.
  • Larry Polte
    commented 2014-04-11 16:25:45 -0500
    Mathew- you’re the one who needs mercy because you are a vile human being. You have no clue what abuse does to an individual or that individual’s family. You have no clue how it feels to be a child and have complete trust in a person who DESTROYS your very being. You do not have the right to pass judgment on anyone. You are clueless as to the adversarial approach by the church to abuse victims because to them this is not about God, mercy or forgiveness. It’s about MONEY and how much of it that they end up paying out. As for your “holy father”, he is incompetent in matters of abuse just as you are incompetent in having any understanding of clergy pedophiles and those that cover it up!
  • Matthew Carlatoni
    commented 2014-04-11 14:18:48 -0500
    Sadly, SNAP repeatedly exposes to the world what SNAP really seeks: revenge. Nothing the Church or Holy Father could ever do will appease your blood lust for revenge. Seek justice, not revenge! Jesus Christ himself could come down from the Cross and work to rid the world of abuse against children, and SNAP would still hammer its nails of revenge into his feet and hands. May God have mercy on your souls.
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