For immediate release: Monday, Nov. 10, 2008
Statement by Becky Ianni of northern Virginia, Virginia director of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
However sporadically and imperfectly, at least some abusive priests have been defrocked or prosecuted, are being "monitored” or live in church run housing centers for pedophiles. Not enough, but at least some. . .
To the best of our knowledge, little or none of this is happening with abusive bishops.
No abusive bishops are being defrocked. Few disclose their whereabouts. Fewer still, we fear, are being monitored. Allegations against them are unresolved. No current church officials even claim to be taking responsibility for protecting kids from or warning adults about potentially dangerous predatory prelates
And there are between 10 and 20 bishops who are proven, admitted or credibly accused abusive. Nine are deceased. The others walk free, however, mostly, we fear, in unsuspecting communities.
Why are we addressing this now? Primarily for two reasons.
1) For the first time ever, a week ago, a diocesan review panel announced that an alleged predator bishop is guilty of molesting kids. Roughly ten other bishops have been similarly accused, but as we said, essentially remain in ‘limbo,’ their whereabouts unknown and little or no monitoring or resolution of the charges against them. We now want other diocesan panels to investigate child sex allegations against these ten.
If one review panel can do this, it stands to reason that others can do likewise.
2) History, psychology and common sense tell us that molesters rarely strike once. Hard evidence tells us the same. Today, we’re releasing a list of 15 pedophile priests who’ve again broken the law in recent years, almost all of whom were on suspension for child sex crimes but getting little or no supervision or therapy.
If predatory priests who walk free hurt others again, it stands to reason that predatory bishops who walk free may well do likewise.
May God have mercy on the souls of today's church officials if one or more of these bishops already has molested again or does molest again, after they have already been accused because of sexual abuse.
Catholics remain troubled because of the on-going clergy sex abuse crisis. This is one reason why.
Children remain at risk because of the on-going clergy sex abuse crisis. This is one reason why.
The broader, nagging, crucial yet unanswered question centers on prevention and on what must be done with the hundreds and hundreds of complicit church officials who suspected or knew of child sex crimes and did nothing or concealed them. But for now, we ask: Can't church officials, including these 200+ bishops meeting inside today, at least take some steps to safeguard innocent kids today from these bishops?
Today, specifically, we call on the US bishops conference to create a new panel to probe sex charges against bishops. And we call on ten diocesan review panels to investigate child sex abuse allegations against their current or former bishops.
With the existing structure - local diocesan review panels – can probe accused bishops, if only panel members overcome their cowardice.
With a new structure – a national review panel designed solely to deal with these cases - can take action when local review boards do not.
Which approach is better? Both. The existing local boards, flawed though they are, can move most quickly and resolve some or all of these pending allegations. But a national board may lead to resolution of some allegations that local boards are unwilling to address.
The bottom line is that something must be done. It’s irresponsible, risky, unhealthy, unfair and cowardly for church officials to let ten or more accused predatory prelates walk free, unsupervised, with no one taking responsibility for them or investigation their alleged crimes.
Finally, as we did yesterday for the first time ever, we call on Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George to resign his post as head of the US bishops conference. In just the last year, his already troubled and troubling deceptiveness, recklessness around children’s safety has gone from bad to worse.
We urge George to step down, for the good of the church, both locally and nationally, because of new child sex crimes and cover ups that have recently come to light.
The latest and most glaring example involves a priest who was criminally convicted of molesting a boy for three years right here in Baltimore. Even now, six years after George and his brother bishops pledged to be ‘open’ about clergy sex crimes and to put kids’ safety first, the Cardinal secretly and deceptively keeps a convicted pedophile priest, a personal friend, working in Chicago sometimes next door to a Catholic school.
But our concern goes beyond this one case. There are cases involving five priests that have surfaced over the past year. Some are proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesters (Fr. Kenneth Martin, Fr. Joseph Bennett, Fr. Norbert Maday). Others ignored or concealed abuse, according to SNAP and church records, “complicit” (Fr. Leonard Dubi and Fr. Edward Grace).
This morning, George spoke of the “hubris that he feels has “isolated our country politically.” For the protection of kids and the healing of victims, we hope he will come to see his own hubris, manifested in his continuing reckless and deceptive actions, and step aside so that he can better safeguard the vulnerable and help the wounded in his own archdiocese.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 19 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. 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 SNAPnetwork.org)
Barbara Blaine 312 399 4747, David Clohessy 314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915, Frank Dingle 410 744 2398 home, 443 996 8994 cell, Becky Ianni 703 801 6044 cell, Barbara Dorris 314 862 7688 home