Sex Abuse Victims Want George to NOT Change Policy Yet

SNAP Asks For “Action, Not Words,” Fearing Complacency

They Urge Cardinal George To Consult More Widely

“Visit Hurting Parishes,” Support Group Urges Cardinal
 
Clergy sex abuse victims are urging Chicago Catholic officials to “resist the temptation to change words on paper” and hold off on changing their sex abuse policy until they have more widely consulted with experts and victims and taken more steps to reach out to victims.
 
Instead, they want Cardinal Francis George to take “prompt pastoral” action to prod victims to report abuse.
 
In a letter sent today to the Cardinal, leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, want George to:
 
  1. personally start visiting churches this weekend where Fr. Daniel McCormack and Fr. Joseph Bennett have been assigned, emphatically reminding Catholics that they have a moral and civic duty to disclose anything they know about these allegations to law enforcement,” and
  2. meet with a wider circle of independent experts and victims before revising his abuse guidelines.
 
For two weeks, George’s staff has said they are considering changes to the archdiocesan policy. But that’s not really the problem, SNAP maintains.

“It’s the Cardinal’s flawed actions, not his flawed policies,” said Kenneth Morrison of Chicago, a SNAP leader. “Words on paper don’t protect kids, decisive action protects kids. But George’s actions are about protecting priests’ reputations, not children’s safety.”
“Bishops under fire insist on self-diagnosing and self-medicating, instead of sitting down with outside experts,” said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, founder of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The Cardinal claims his policies are flawed. We disagree. But if he relies on the same advisors and process, he’ll get the same outcome. It’s time he widens his circle.”
 
A copy of SNAP’s letter, sent today via fax and e mail to George, is below:
2.13.06
 
Dear Cardinal George:
 
In the last three weeks, Chicagoans have learned of seven new credibly accused abusive priests.
 
They include Fr. John Rohrick, Fr. Howard Strum, Fr. Paul O’Toole, Msgr. Dominic Diederich, Fr. Joseph Bennett, Fr. William J. Spine and Fr. Daniel McCormack.
 
The latter three (Bennett, Spine, and McCormack) remained in active ministry until the last few days or weeks. The first three (Rohrick, Strum, and O’Toole) were exposed Saturday, when a woman announced her once-secret $125,000 settlement against the archdiocese:  http://www.wbbm780.com/pages/7192.php
 
At least two of them – Bennett and McCormack – were apparently first accused years ago. Both were allegedly secretly being monitored by fellow priests (even though there are no such provision for such an arrangement in the US Bishops Conference abuse policy adopted in Dallas).
 
We bring all this up in light of your apparent plan to announce yet another “reform” in your local sex abuse policy soon. We ask you to reconsider. Changing your policy at this point, we believe, is deceptive and will lead only to a false, premature complacency on the part of some.
 
In 2002, bishops faced tremendous pressure to do something about the horrifying clergy sex abuse and cover up scandal that dominating the nation’s headlines. Bishops hurriedly and arrogantly self-diagnosed and self-medicated, insisting that they understood both the problem and its solution.
 
That was probably good public relations. But it was bad public policy. We ask you to please not make this same mistake again.
 
Your alleged rationale for again revising your policy is that you supposedly couldn’t remove McCormack or Bennett sooner. We think this is ridiculous.
 
The Catholic church is a monarchy. In Chicago, you are the king. Priests have no union. You can suspend a priest anytime for anything. To claim otherwise is ludicrous. (Does anyone really think these priests would have remained in active ministry for years while your staff allegedly investigated allegations that they stole money or advocated abortion?)
 
We believe “where there’s a will, there’s a way,” and that if you truly valued the safety of dozens of kids (more than the reputation of one adult), you would have removed Fr. Bennett and Fr. McCormack months or even years ago.
 
Apparently, you soon plan to try and shift attention from your behavior to your policy. But before doing this, Cardinal, we respectfully ask that you address some key unresolved questions about these recent scandals:
 
  1. 1.You claimed there were no earlier allegations against Fr. McCormack. A nun disputes this. She says she reported McCormack’s abusive actions, verbally and in writing, to several church officials six years ago.http://www.dailysouthtown.com/southtown/dsindex/26-ds9.htm
  2. 2.You claimed the family of a McCormack victim who came forward last August never contacted church officials. That mother disputes this. She says she "called the archdiocese to report the allegations within days of learning of the abuse and going to police in late August" and she “talked to archdiocesan officials on at least three occasions in September -- twice by phone, and once in person at a meeting with a teacher and a principal." http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-mom07.html
  3. 3.You claim that McCormack and Bennett were “monitored” by other priests. Yet you’ve produced not a single shred of evidence to back up this claim. Will you disclose the written instructions you secretly gave these alleged “monitors” and the documents explaining why you’ve deviated from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ policies by devising a secret monitoring arrangement?
 
Instead of “revisiting” your policy this week, we recommend action, not words. Specifically, instead of “tweaking” your apparently ignored policy, we urge you to
  1. Hold meetings at other wounded parishes like the one you held at St. Agatha’s. As best we can tell, you have not visited any of the other parishes where these seven accused priests worked.
  2. Get input from truly independent experts in the field of child sexual abuse and prosecution, not just a handpicked few. We’ll be glad to sit down with you ourselves, and recommend some non-Catholic authorities from outside of Chicago who can give you good advice based on years of experience.
  3. Finally, we urge you to educate your flock. Please let them know that the enemy is not the news media or some nameless “enemies of the church.” The enemy is complacency. It's the tempting but dangerous assumption that decades of abuse and secrecy have suddenly and magically been reversed, in just three short years, by the very men who got us into this mess to begin with. But that’s naïve. We beg you to tell our parishioners this.
 
Complacency protects no one. Only vigilance protects kids.
 
Cardinal George, after years and years of scandal, we have sadly become convinced it's not the church's procedures that are flawed, it's the church's leadership that is flawed. (And it will remain flawed until lay people insist on real change, not cosmetic, paper “reforms.”)
 
Again, we urge you to lead by constructive action, not comforting words.
 
If you persist in announcing yet another “policy change,” and trying to pass it off as another allegedly significant “reform,” we ask that you consider the example you’re setting for young Catholics.
 
As young Catholics, we're taught to take responsibility for our sins. We aren't allowed to enter the confessional and say "I meant well, but my process was insufficient."
 
Nor are we allowed to avoid consequences for our sins by saying "I've apologized, and I've fixed my process now."
 
David Clohessy
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
Saint Louis, MO  63143
314 645 5915, 314 566 9790 cell
 
Barbara Dorris
Outreach Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
6245 Westminster Place
Saint Louis, MO  63130
314 862 7688
 
Barbara Blaine
President and Founder, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
700 N. Green, Suite 504
Chicago, IL 60622
312 399 4747
 
Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director 314 503 0003
 
In the last few weeks, we’ve learned about seven more about alleged abusive Chicago priests.
 
The Cardinal didn’t tell us.
 
His assistant bishops didn’t tell us.
 
His PR man didn’t tell us.
 
His so-called Victims Assistance Coordinator didn’t tell us.
 
His so-called Lay Review Board didn’t tell us.
 
His dozens and dozens of chancery office staff didn’t tell us.
 
His hundreds and hundreds of priests didn’t tell us.
 
We learned about these accused child molesters because of brave victims, good cops, and a caring lay person.
 
Victims spoke up about Fr. Joseph Bennett.
 
Police arrested Fr. Dan McCormack.
 
A Catholic lay women “outed” Monsignor Dominic Diederich.
 
A religious order suspended Fr. William J. Spine.
 
A victim publicly named Fr. John Rohrick, Fr. Howard Strum, and Fr. Paul O’Toole
 
Only after these individuals took action did Cardinal George do something.
 
All of these men were accused years ago. But the Cardinal didn’t warn his flock. The Cardinal kept quiet, again.
 
The same old, same old.
 
Something must change.
 
We believe that those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
 
We also believe that those who don’t discipline wrong-doers encourage wrong-doers.
 
We know church officials will accuse us of being angry and vindictive.
 
But everyone knows that when there are no consequences for recklessness, recklessness continues.
So for the safety of kids, for the healing of victims, and for the good of the church, we believe two things must happen:
 
First, Cardinal George must be disciplined, and second, members of his staff must be disciplined.
 
Tweaking a so-called policy and offering a so-called apology changes nothing. Those have been done time and time and time again.
 
Action protects kids, not apologies.
 
People protect kids, not policies.
 
In government, in the business world, in the military, in other non-profits, irresponsible behavior that leads to the rape of children is not tolerated.
 
But in the Chicago archdiocese, it IS tolerated, because nothing happens to anyone who acts recklessly and causes kids to be sodomized.
 
That much change.
 
A few adults’ heads must roll, or else many kids’ psyches may be shattered.
 
A few older egos must be bruised, or else many younger psyches may be scarred.
 
A few grown ups should be fired, or else many children will be vulnerable.
 
If non-pedophiles on the church payroll ignore or help or cover up for pedophiles, they should face consequences.
 
Let’s get specific.
 
The buck stops with Cardinal George. Ultimately, he should be disciplined for the fact that innocent kids were needlessly put at risk and likely repeatedly molested on his watch because he prefers secrecy to openness and he cares more about his reputation than his flock.
 
We call on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, headed by Bishop William Skylstad, to do this.
And we call on National Review Board, headed by Dr. Patricia Ewers, to do this.
In 2002, bishops pledged to hold one another accountable on sex abuse cases. Bishops must have the courage to speak out against wrong-doing by other bishops. The secrecy of the old boys’ network must end.
 
The Review Board was allegedly to be a “watchdog” over the bishops. Frankly, it’s become a “lap dog.”
 
If it is to have any credibility or effectiveness, we believe its members must censure Cardinal George for his continued recklessness and cowardice.
 
The Review Board allegedly oversees compliance with the bishops’ national sex abuse policy. Cardinal George has violated that policy and allegedly made up his own policy – priests secretly monitoring accused pedophile priests. He must be held accountable for this violation.
 
  1. In addition, several church staffers might be sanctioned: 
  2. the Catholic schools officials to who apparently did nothing after a nun reported suspected abuse six years ago
  3. the Catholic school administrator told her "If the parents aren't pushing it, let it go.”
  4. the top chancery office staff who proposed secretly appointing priests to “monitor” alleged molesters.
  5. the alleged “monitors” themselves  
  6. the staff who are responsible for the two year delay in suspending Fr. Joseph Bennett
Finally, if neither the National Review Board nor the Bishops Conference finds the backbone to speak up, Cardinal George should discipline himself.
 
No one relishes the idea of someone being fired, or being suspended, or being disciplined. No one wants to see another person suffer.
 
But we’re convinced that some adult must endure consequences or else kids will keep enduring abuse.
 
It’s just that simple.
 
And until some adult endures consequences, all of Cardinal George’s words ring hollow. He can shout “zero tolerance” at the top of his lungs. But if he insists on “all carrot and no stick,” abuse will keep happening and being hidden in his archdiocese.
 
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a support group
Barbara Blaine of Chicago (312) 399 4747, SNAPblaine@hotmail.com
David Clohessy of St. Louis (314) 566-9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Peter Isely of Milwaukee, SNAP Board Member (414) 429 7259, peterisely@yahoo.com
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