Abuse Victims Want Voice
Agrees Survivor of Clergy Misconduct Is Needed on Review Board
By Ted Slowik
The Herald News [Joliet IL]
Downloaded August 6, 2003
JOLIET — A group of people who were sexually abused by priests wants the Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet to appoint an abuse survivor to the Diocesan Review Board.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests also wants the diocese to publish a list of all clerics named in credible allegations of sexual misconduct with minors.
The diocese said it, too, wants an abuse survivor to serve on the review board, which considers evidence and testimony about allegations and recommends action the bishop should take.
"We've been actively looking, but we haven't found anybody who will do it," said John Cullen, the Joliet Diocese's communications director. Some people who were abused don't want their identity disclosed, and the diocese publicly names review board members, Cullen said.
But Bob Caron of Glen Ellyn, Illinois director of SNAP, said he knows of people who would serve on the panel.
"I could very easily find somebody who would volunteer," said Caron, who was sexually abused by a Joliet Diocese priest when he was a youth. "On the diocesan review committee, priests, lawyers, psychologists and law enforcement are all represented, but there appears to be no one on the committee to represent the victim's point of view."
Someone who said he was abused by a priest did serve last year on an independent advisory group that helped rewrite the diocese's policies for dealing with sexual abuse allegations, Cullen pointed out.
"We did have a victim — an alleged victim — on the advisory group," Cullen said.
A local chapter of SNAP meets from 7-9 p.m. on the last Sunday of each month in the Behavioral Health Services Building at Central DuPage Hospital, 25 N. Winfield Road, Winfield. Call (630) 886-9093 for more information.
Caron met recently with Sister Mary Francis Seeley, the diocese's victim assistance minister, and presented a list of eight items "requiring immediate action by the Joliet Diocese."
Seeley said she wanted to protect the confidentiality that she ensures people through her work and preferred to not comment on the meeting.
Cullen, speaking on behalf of Joliet Bishop Joseph Imesch, said the diocese has no plans to publish a list of offending clerics.
"It's been published. It's been in the paper over and over. Everybody who has had an allegation that appears to have substance has been removed from active ministry," Cullen said.
But SNAP believes that's precisely why the diocese ought to name names on its own.
"I'm disappointed that (the diocese) continues with the appearance of stonewalling," Caron said. "We're not asking for any information that hasn't already been made public."
SNAP also wants the diocese to:
Change the voice mail message on the diocesan victim assistance phone line, (815) 263-6467. An automated message does not identify the line as being associated with the diocese or abuse victims;
Provide a link to SNAP's Web site, www.snapnetwork.org, on the diocesan Web site;
Actively encourage parishes to publicize SNAP meetings in bulletins;
Release all victims from confidentiality agreements;
Immediately notify civil authorities of allegations; and
Cooperate with civil authorities in the investigations of sex abuse charges.
The diocese's revamped policies for addressing sexual abuse complaints already require compliance with SNAP's final three demands, and Cullen said the diocese would not use its resources to promote the support group.
"We're not going to do SNAP's publicity for them," he said.
Caron said he was disappointed by the reaction.
"SNAP is functioning as a support group for victims of sexual abuse. I fail to understand why the diocese would not encourage people to seek support," Caron said.
Caron, who met with Seeley on July 23, also said he was disappointed that the diocese hadn't yet responded directly to him about the issues he raised.
SNAP also has asked for a list of offending priests to be published by the Archdiocese of Chicago, which has thus far declined. Caron said he plans to meet with representatives of the Rockford, Peoria, Springfield and Belleville dioceses to discuss efforts to work with abuse survivors.
"The list contains general issues SNAP feels are pertinent to all dioceses. There are some specific to the Joliet Diocese, but there are similar things with all dioceses around the state," he said.
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