Victims hope Francis doesn't win Nobel Prize

For immediate release: Thursday, October 8, 2015

Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003[email protected] )

We hope the esteemed Nobel committee does not award the Nobel Peace Prize to Pope Francis.

He’s made strides in improving church governance, morale and finances. He speaks often about the poor and seems more humble and less judgmental than his predecessor.
Still, he has done almost nothing to protect kids, expose predators, punish enablers, and deter future child sex crimes and cover ups.  
And it would be very ironic were the Pope to win the Nobel Peace Prize a year after two United Nations panels harshly criticized his institution for continuing cover ups of sexual violence by clergy. What other "head of state" who has been cited for non-compliance with United Nations treaties on torture and children’s rights is up for consideration? 

Francis made a few well-orchestrated “feel good” gestures about the church’s on-going abuse and cover up crisis. Like his predecessors, he’s belatedly taken timid action against a high profile child molesting cleric. (Francis has disciplined Archbishop Josef Wesolowski, much like Benedict disciplined Fr. Maciel.)

Like his predecessors, he’s belatedly taken timid and vague action against a controversial bishop.

Like his predecessors, he has apologized for abuse and met with victims. But like his predecessors, he’s also done very little, if anything to make a single child safer, preferring instead to use words rather than deeds and symbolism rather than substance.

Unlike his predecessors, he’s slowly setting up an abuse commission, but to us, that seems like a paltry public relations move rather than a meaningful reform move. He needs no panel to guide him. He knows that every Catholic official who commits or conceals child sex crimes should be turned over to law enforcement and be disciplined harshly by the Vatican. But he refuses to take decisive action that will really make a difference, preferring instead soothing words that won’t really make a difference.

It may simply be safer and wiser for this esteemed panel to award this prestigious prize toward the end of an individual’s leadership, rather than at or near the beginning.

At best, giving such an award to Francis now would be premature. He’s said some good things. But on children's safety, his words don't match his deeds. And increasingly, he's saying bad things on abuse and cover up. (See yesterdays New York Times story about Chilean Bishop Juan Barros and Francis' continued defense of him and Francis' insulting and hurtful remarks about Catholics and victims who oppose Barros' promotion.) 
Many hope that Franrcis' repeated abuse-related promises and gestures will eventually result in some concrete progress. But the most compelling issue for us – and for millions - is that he has yet to really act on the problem that demands the most action from him, the ongoing clergy sexual abuse and cover up crisis.

For decades, now it has been devastating children and families around the globe. Thousands of predatory priests and complicit bishops remain free, in office, and face few or any consequences. And children worldwide remain at risk. For this, he should be considered for a Nobel Prize? We respectfully disagree.

Roughly one in three or four girls and one in six or seven boys are sexually assaulted. Historically, adults do a better job of looking out for each other than adults do looking out for kids. Many adults can protect themselves from the ravages of war but few kids can protect themselves from the ravages of predators. So we hope that future Nobel Peace Prize winners will be individuals or groups that have impressive achievements in keeping children safe from child molesters.

Francis will have earned a Nobel Prize when he has done everything in his power to protect children. We hope he starts to earn it very soon.

And if Francis does win, it will bring joy to millions of Catholics while bringing pain to millions of other Catholics, to say nothing of the deep pain it will bring to tens or hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded and still struggling adults who were sexually violated as children by Catholic clerics and betrayed again as adults by Catholic officials when they sought to expose predators and protect kids.

(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 20,000 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 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312 399 4747,[email protected]), Joelle Casteix (949 322 7434[email protected]), Peter Isely (414 429 7259,[email protected])

Pope blasts his flock over corrupt bishop
For immediate release: Thursday, Oct. 8

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 that thousands of his flock are "dumb" and "led around by the nose" by "leftists" who are “orchestrating” opposition to a discredited bishop. Why? Because they choose to believe three credible child sex abuse victims and disbelieve a few Catholic officials who claim that their brother bishop isn’t corrupt bishop despite strong evidence to the contrary.   

These hurtful and arrogant statements reveal a lot about Francis. His ostensibly gentle demeanor masks some ugly feelings about abuse victims and lay Catholics.

There’s a simple question that Francis must now answer: Why would these three victims tell the truth about their abuse by Fr. Fernando Karadima but lie about Bishop Juan Barros watching and hiding that abuse for years? (Catholic officials themselves now admit that Fr. Karadima is a child molester.)

In his first remarks about a specific abuse and cover up case, Francis has let his hair down and it's a disturbing sight. For Francis, like most other Catholic officials, it’s apparently easy to mouth pious generalities about victims but harder to side with them when they expose one of your brother bishops as complicity in child sex crimes.

In our view, Francis should not apologize for his hurtful comments and condescending attitude. Apologies are easy, cheap and mostly meaningless and change nothing. In church parlance, they are ‘cheap grace.’ Instead, Francis should demote Barros and stop elevating clerics who conceal, enable and minimize heinous crimes against children.

This will strike some as harsh, but by promoting Barros - and refusing to reconsider his decision - Francis is basically signaling his clerics that those who tolerate, conceal and even watch child sex crimes will keep climbing the clerical career ladder.

And he’s essentially signaling to Catholics who want kids protected, victims supported, cover ups stopped and complicit bishops punished that they are powerless and “dumb.”

Despite carefully-crafted compassionate-sounding remarks on abuse, deep down Francis clearly buys the simplistic and self-serving notion that this continuing crisis stems largely from the perceived "enemies" of the church hierarchy: angry victims, greedy lawyers, biased journalists and ideological opponents. That explains why he’s done virtually nothing to address the crisis in a meaningful way.

Many are stunned by Francis’ callous, blame-shifting comments. Sadly, we are not. Look at his recent trip to the US and at his actual behavior as pontiff.

In his first comments on US soil about the clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis, Francis made virtually no mention of victims, offered no apology and praised US bishops for how they’re handling it. He refused to tell or even ask bishops to do anything more about the scandal than they’re already doing.

Within hours, the National Catholic Reporter opined that the pope’s “sadly disappointing” message was “a glaring oversight” with just one “oblique” reference to the crisis that “puts him back to square one.”

“At the very least,” wrote NCR editor Dennis Coday, Francis “could have used the words ‘clergy sexual abuse of minors’” and his decision to “praise bishops for the courage they have shown, before acknowledging the pain of the victims, will undoubtedly raise the charges of “he just doesn’t get it.”

--This is, after all, the same pope who refused to meet with victims during the entire time he headed the Buenos Aires archdiocese.

--He is the same pope who, hours after taking office, visited the Rome cathedral headed by the “poster boy” of bad bishops, Cardinal Bernard Law, formerly of Boston, Massachusetts (the archdiocese from which he resigned in 2002).

--He is the same pope who, as Vatican officials were being grilled about abuse cover ups by a United Nations panel in Geneva, held a private meeting with disgraced Los Angeles Cardinal Roger Mahony, a prelate so corrupt that his successor denied him the right to exercise public ministry in his own archdiocese.

--He is the same pope who, just last year, said “The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution to have moved with transparency and accountability.” He made this claim shortly after refusing to extradite an accused predatory archbishop in the Dominican Republic to secular authorities and to provide data to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

--In that same interview, Francis went further, arguing that he and his bishops were being victimized: “No one else has done more. Yet the Church is the only one to be attacked.”

Make no mistake about it: Francis has been bold, even innovative, when it comes to reforming church governance, improving church finances and boosting church morale. His gentle, humble and down-to-earth demeanor has inspired millions. His plea to remember and reach out to the poor and marginalized has refocused millions on core Gospel values so often piously mouthed in churches but so often overlooked in real life.

Yet his refusal to chart a new course in this continuing crisis is disturbing. He had another terrific opportunity to do so when he came to the US. But he didn’t. He had another terrific opportunity when he was asked to rescind Barros’ appointment. But he didn’t.

On his US trip, in New York, Francis addressed the crisis a second time. This time, his audience was a group of nuns and priests. Again, the clerics were Francis’ main concern.

“I know that you suffered greatly. . .by having to bear the shame of some of your brothers who harmed and scandalized the Church in the most vulnerable of her members,” he said.

Finally, on his last day in the US, he spent 30 minutes with five people – two or three clergy sex abuse victims, the others victims of non-clergy predators. His remarks after that meeting were more sensitive.

But to some, however, it was “too little, too late.” And his defense of Barros is even more disturbing.

Francis “addresses” this crisis with more and more words. And words – whether clearer or stronger or whatever – don’t protect those who suffer from child sex crimes, don’t expose those who commit child sex crimes and don’t deter those who conceal child sex crimes.

Only action makes a difference, as the NCR’s Coday rightly points out. His blog ended with a clarion call: “Francis will need to show some deliberate, dramatic action to prove that he understands the gravity of this problem. After he shows he understands it, he will then have to prove that he will do something about it.”

At the risk of sounding cynical, we believe the pope “gets it.” He’s very smart. He understands this scandal and what must happen to fix and stop it.

But sadly, like his predecessors, he seems really incapable of showing the courage to tackle the crisis head on and demand the real reforms that will protect the vulnerable, heal the wounded, expose the truth and end the cover ups. His trip to the US and his attacks on his Chilean flock confirm this dismal diagnosis.

Finally, our hearts go out to Fr. Karadima victims Juan Carlos Cruz, Juan Hamilton and José Murillo, and Juan Carlos Claret, a spokesman for Osorno’s Lay Organization, and all who are showing real concern for children and compassion for children by denouncing Francis’ irresponsible promotion of Barros.

David G. Clohessy
Director, SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests)
314-566-9790 (cell)

Showing 2 comments

SNAP Network is a GuideStar Gold Participant