Washington, DC-Victims urge Congress to investigate Catholic abuse/cover up scandal
SNAP: “100,000 US clergy abuse victims, but federal officials do nothing”
Group applauds governmental investigations and reports in other countries
Two United Nations panels have done probes and attacked church hierarchy
Organization says “Welcoming Francis is fine but, for kids’ sake, challenge him too”
Holding signs and childhood photos at a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will blast US federal officials for “doing nothing” about the on-going child molestation and cover up scandal in the church. They will call on
--Congress to hold hearings into the crisis, and
--the Justice Department to make crime-fighting funds to states contingent on reforming archaic child safety laws.
They will also
--urge Pope Francis to stop bishops from fighting secular child safety reforms, and
--urge “everyone who saw, suspected or suffered” child sex crimes and cover ups in churches to “protect kids, expose predators, deter cover ups and push for eliminating predator-friendly statutes of limitations.”
Wednesday, Sept. 23 at 2:30 pm.
Outside the U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington DC
Four-five members of an international support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org), including a Missouri woman who is the organization’s long time outreach director
Some consider the U.S. to be the epicenter of the clergy sex abuse and cover up crisis since the first pedophile priest made national headlines here more than 30 years ago (Father Gilbert Gauthe of Lafayette, Louisiana). Catholic bishops admit that 6,427 US priests are accused molesters and Catholic experts estimate that these child molesting clerics have assaulted more than 100,000 kids.
Yet despite all this, US federal officials “have taken virtually no steps to probe or prevent these crimes or coverups or punish clerics who conceal or commit them,” SNAP says.
A number of states have eliminated or extended statute of limitations which prevent most child sex abuse victims from exposing predators and seeking justice in courts. But Congress has considered no new laws in response to the decades-long scandal.
Abroad, a number of national and regional governments have conducted investigations and issued reports about this continuing crisis (including Ireland, Australia, Canada and Belgium). The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee Against Torture, have done investigations and issued findings.
Becky Ianni, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic church and the DC leader for SNAP, says Congress’ invitation to Francis is reopening old wounds and discouraging victims, witnesses and whistleblowers from reporting known and suspected child sex crimes.
“I was abused by a trusted clergyman. When I came forward as an adult and reported my abuse to church officials, I was betrayed again. Now I’m very sad to see my government shutting down the city to let Francis to address Congress but refusing to spend a dime to investigate widespread, horrific and continuing child sex crimes and cover ups in the institution Francis heads,” she said.
“It’s very hard for victims to speak up, but federal inaction deepens the sense of hopelessness many who were assaulted still feel,” said SNAP director David Clohessy. “They ask themselves ‘Why should I take the risk and call police when it seems like powerful wrongdoers get off scot-free?”
“I came to SNAP because of abuse of children in my Eastern Orthodox parish was poorly handled by my former bishop,” said SNAP leader Melanie Sakoda of Morgana California. “Our government should do more to hold the Catholic Church accountable. But why stop there? I would like to see the horror of institutional child abuse addressed by the federal government as it has been in Australia and the UK. Formal, on-going inquiries in those two countries are givng victims abused in other institutions a platform as well.”
“Federal officials and agencies could tie crime-related funding to state reform of child safety laws,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s longtime outreach director. “Justice Department monies could be denied to states that give child sex abuse victims little time to expose predators in court. We tie highway funds to driving safety measures, like reasonable speed limits. We can do the same with child safety measures.”
“Under President George W. Bush, the DOJ established a special unit to pursue charges against hard-core Southern racists who beat and intimidated African-American voters,” said Clohessy. “Why not a special task force targeting predator priests who have hurt children in one state only to be sent elsewhere, even abroad, to do so again?”
SNAP is convinced that if the federal government “showed even a scintilla of the bravery that thousands of victims have shown and a bit of the resourcefulness some local law enforcement staff have shown, real progress could be made in making the Catholic church a more healthy and safe institution — no matter what Pope Francis does or does not do about this continuing crisis.”
Sakoda concluded, "I would much rather hear that our Congress is taking action to hold the Catholic hierarchy and other institutions accountable for child sexual abuse than see them passively listening to a speech by a media savvy pope."
Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003 cell, b[email protected]), Becky Ianni (703-801-6044, [email protected]), Melanie Sakoda (925-708-6175 cell, [email protected]), David Clohessy(314-566-9790 cell, [email protected])