Victims: “Bishops must now honor Francis’ new commitments”
Pope’s promise to “end secrecy” means prelates must act, group says
SNAP: Pontiff’s ‘accountability’ pledge means “enablers” must be punished
Self help organization wants two ---three recent local abuse cases to be “re-examined”
Holding signs and childhood photos, clergy sex abuse victims will urge all US Catholic bishops – including DC’s archbishop - to honor and act on the promises Pope Francis made yesterday. Specifically, the victims will urge America’s bishops and DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl to
-- disclose names of church staff who CONCEALED child sex crimes,
-- disclose (and post on church websites) names of clerics who COMMITTED child sex crimes, and
-- publicly “defrock, demote or at least discipline” the “enablers.’
They will also prod Wuerl to disclose more about and “re-visit” three recent clergy sex abuse cases.
Monday, Sept. 28 at 1:00 p.m.
Outside the US Conference of Catholic Bishops headquarters, 3211 4th Street NE, Washington DC
Three-four members of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)
On Sunday, Pope Francis made strong promises, including that “abuse cannot be kept secret any longer,” “all responsible will be held accountable," and that church officials will provide "careful oversight to ensure that youth are protected.”
In light of these pledges and others, SNAP is challenging US and DC church officials and members to “take tangible steps” to act on these “noble sentiments”.
Regarding secrecy, the group wants All US bishops and DC Archbishop Donald Wuerl to “disclose the names of clerics who concealed – not just those who committed – clergy sex crimes.”
Regarding accountability, the group wants US bishops and Wuerl to “reveal and punish priests who protected accused predator priests, to deter such future wrongdoing.”
“With almost 6,500 child molesting clerics (and almost 30 publicly accused in the District), bishops (including Wuerl) know which church staff have hidden or ignored clergy sex crimes, but they won’t punish them,” said SNAP’s Becky Ianni of Burke VA. “He’s breaking the pope’s repeated accountability promises. So Wuerl should publicly demote at least one church staffer now.”
Francis said “never again” should clergy sex crimes happen. Toward this end, SNAP is urging all US bishops to post on church websites the names, photos, whereabouts and work histories of “proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests in their dioceses.” Under pressure, about 15% of US bishops have done this. It’s “the absolute bare minimum” church officials can do “to protect the vulnerable and warn unsuspecting families about child molesters quietly living in their midst,” SNAP says.
SNAP also wants Wuerl to revisit and reveal more about two recent “troubling” local abuse cases:
---Last month, a New Jersey newspaper reported that Fr. Manuel Gallo Espinoza, a now admitted child molester, had worked for years (until 2014) at a public school in the DC archdiocese despite abuse allegations. The priest is now teaching in Ecuador.
---In 2013, an out of state newspaper reported that Fr. Robert Petrella, originally a DC archdiocesan cleric, had moved from the DC area to New Jersey. He’s now believed to be back in Maryland. At least 25 adults say they were molested as kids by Fr. Petrella.
Twice he was convicted for child sex crimes. In 2006, in a $1.3 million settlement with archdiocese, at least one of his victims was compensated. In 2008, he lived with his mom in North Arlington, MD.
Given Francis’ professed commitment to end secrecy and “always be vigilant to protect children,” SNAP wants Wuerl and his abuse review board to “look again at these cases, be more forthcoming, err on the side of caution and use church bulletins and pulpit announcements to seek out victims of these clerics so that they might be prosecuted and so that other kids might be spared lifetimes of devastation.”
“At best, Wuerl does the absolute bare minimum required of him under the church’s vague, weak, decade-old abuse policy. Surely, he’ll do more in light of Francis’ latest promises,” said David Clohessy, director of SNAP. “At worst, Wuerl violates that policy by letting suspended predators live unsupervised, and by being secretive in ways that continue to put kids at risk. That too, we’d expect to change, given the pontiff’s clear pledges.”
“If bishops don’t like our ideas on implementing Francis’ pledges, we welcome their own ideas,” said Judy Lorenz of SNAP Maryland. “The only course of action that’s unacceptable now is inaction.”
David Lorenz (301-262-6517 h, 301-906-9161 c, [email protected]), David Clohessy (314-566-9790, [email protected]), Judy Lorenz (301-262-6517, [email protected]), Becky Ianni (703-801-6044, [email protected], Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003, [email protected])