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  SNAP Press Statements
Statement Regarding John Jay Self-Survey Numbers

By Barbara Blaine
February 27, 2004

"It's clear what American bishops want. They want us to think it's all about a tiny group of bad apple priests long ago.

But it's not.

It's about the bishops, not the priests.

It's about the enablers, not the abusers.

It's about the cover up, not the crime.

It's about the present, not the past.

A passage from Luke, chapter 11, is very apt: "Who, if his child asks for bread, would give him a stone?" That's what most bishops are doing - giving us stones instead of bread.

Catholics want and deserve accountability from bishops. Instead, we're given numbers of abusers.

Catholics want and deserve the full truth. Instead, we're given carefully chosen partial numbers.

Catholics want and deserve ways to protect their kids. Instead, we're given excuses and platitudes about privacy.

The Bible also tells us "the truth shall set you free."

Not a sanitized, minimized portion of the truth.

Not a conveniently chosen version of the truth.

Not public relations masquerading as the truth.

The truth shall set you free.

And right now, we don't have it. We may be a tad closer, but we certainly aren't there. And we need to keep pushing until we get there. Victims hunger for the truth. Catholics deserve the truth. Kids, to be safe, need the truth.

Let's talk about our terminology for a minute.

The John Jay document is not a study, not a thorough accounting, or God forbid, not an investigation. It's a self-survey. Period. No independent corroboration, no spot-checking, no verification, no third party involvement.

It's also not a sign of greater openness. Keep in mind that this has been forced on the bishops by years of seemingly endless revelations, removals, prosecutions, admissions, exposes, verdicts, lawsuits, and excuses.

Now let's talk about the bishops' terminology for a minute. To the bishops, we say:

Stop the excuse making:

--- "Our understanding of abuse has evolved."

Stop the minimizing:

--- "Priests abuse at the same rate as others."

Stop the dodging:

--- "Most abuse occurs in the home."

Stop the distancing:

--- "Most cases date to the 70s and 80s."

Stop the self-praise.

--- "No other institution is doing such self-examination."

Stop the blaming.

--- "We relied on faulty experts."

These comments don't "provide perspective." They provide cover. They provide false security. They provide excuses. And they hurt. These comments are unworthy of true spiritual leaders.

Again, remember: it's not about "other people" perpetrators, therapists, parents, other professions. It's about you all, the bishops.

And what have you bishops done?

Let's look back for a moment. In1993, following the horrific Father James Porter case, church PR people, defense lawyers and insurance companies insisted that virtually every diocese adopt a written sexual abuse policy. Many dioceses established review boards. The bishops set up a national committee. Thick documents were produced. And the mantra became "We've got a committee. We've got policies. We're moving on." Is this sounding familiar?

Now the mantra is a largely the same with one new twist. From this day forward, the bishops' not-so-subtle message will basically be "We've got policies. We've got numbers. We're moving on."

In all fairness, this time around, ten years later, there has been more activity, more motion. But action doesn't necessarily mean progress. Motion doesn't necessarily mean forward motion.

There's lots of paperwork, policies, procedures, and press releases. There's tinkering around the edges. There are small, simple, non-controversial steps. But again, little substantive reform has occurred.

For example, there are now explicit complaint procedures, written codes of conduct for priests, formal communications plans with pledges of openness. On paper, it all sounds good.

But paper solutions didn't work in 1993. They won't work now.

Finally, at best what we have here is a very partial diagnosis. Remember, we're talking about a self-survey.

A partial diagnosis is risky. An unbiased diagnosis is better. A cure is best of all. Now, let's start working on the cure, a real cure.

Back to these John Jay numbers. At worst, these flawed numbers are a distraction.

At best, they give a very partial diagnosis. And a diagnosis is only the first step.

No one confuses a diagnosis with a cure. No one should consider partial numbers genuine progress.

Progress involves changing questionable behavior, not collecting questionable statistics.

But let's look at the bottom line here. Is this self-survey a good thing?

If it leads to reform, both inside and outside the church, that's obviously good.

If, however, it leads to either complacency or hopelessness, that's obviously bad.

And if, like last month's so-called audit, it is mischaracterized by bishops, and depicted in church newspapers and diocesan websites as the whole truth, that's obviously bad too.

Bishops owe it to all of us to be honest about what these numbers are and are not. They should avoid the temptation to misrepresent them. And Catholics should remain skeptical. That's the only prudent response.

Complacency never saved one child. Only skepticism and vigilance protect kids.

WHAT'S NEXT

For SNAP, what's next is simple.

We'll keep reaching out to and crying with and listening to victims.

Well keep giving them a safe place to be heard and supported.

We'll keep gently prodding victims to tell their loved ones, report the crimes, and get into therapy.

We'll keep urging bishops to sit with us, and truly hear us.

We'll keep educating parents and parishioners about detecting and preventing abuse.

We'll keep warning people about the Monsignor Gaffneys and Father Andersons.

We'll keep asking police and prosecutors and lawmakers to take firm action against abusers.

Honestly, we are a tired and wounded and struggling band of brothers and sisters. We'll stand together.

We'll do what we always have - rescue and recovery, day in and day out.

We'll look hard for ways to be more helpful than we have been.

And we'll persevere. Inspired by brave survivors like Dan and Art, we'll preserve. We have to. We're survivors.

For Catholics, what's next is clear.

Catholics should remain skeptical of these numbers and claims.

Catholics should be vigilant and careful with their children.

Catholics should demand real openness.

Catholics should push for genuine reform, inside and outside the church.

SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

 
 

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