|Steele County Press
By Robert Slocum
National Survivor Advocates Coalition
January 28, 2010
A nationwide support group for victims of sexual abuse is reaching out in local Catholic parishes where an alleged predator priest was previously assigned.
Bob Schwiderski, regional director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, held a press conference Tuesday outside St. Agatha’s Church in Hope.
Schwiderski says several victims from North Dakota have come forward with allegations that Father Gregory Patejko sexually abused them, among them a Zeeland, ND man who settled a claim with the Fargo Diocese after alleging Patejko sexually abused him in 1976.
Patejko was a pastor in Hope, Page and Aneta from 1979 to 1981 and his assignment to the local parishes came directly after his time in the Zeeland/Ashley area. He later served at several churches in Texas before relocating back to Poland. He is now believed to be deceased.
“They picked him up and they dropped him here is what they did,” Schwiderski said. “If there are victims here we urge them to get help.”
Schwiderski says that since his organization was first informed of the Fargo Diocese 1994 settlement with Richard Jangula of Zeeland, three more victims have come forward with stories of sexual abuse during Patejko’s time in North Dakota.
One of these victims also claims to have a “confidential agreement” with the Fargo Diocese. In it, the victims say they received an undisclosed amount of money and agreed not to sue the diocese in the future.
With this information, Schwiderski says he believes there are more victims who have not yet come forward. He also had harsh criticism for the Fargo Diocese, which he says should be open with local parishes about Patejko’s past.
The Diocese of Fargo’s statement of policy regarding sexual misconduct states that in the event of a report of sexual misconduct, “the Diocese is committed to communicating openly and fully with the affected parish or community.”
To the best knowledge of SNAP, Schwiderski says, there has been no communication from the Fargo Diocese to the Hope, Page or Aneta parishes directly referencing Patejko.
“They’re trying to change the subject and pass it off on victim confidentiality,” Schwiderski said. “That’s fine, but come back to your policy and be open with the parishes.”
SNAP vs. Fargo Diocese
The SNAP organization has challenged the Diocese of Fargo publically several times within the past year, claiming it has not aggressively sought to identify and assist victims of sexual abuse.
The group sent out a formal letter in December that was directed at Bishop Samuel Aquila for what the group perceives as a lack of response to allegations against Patejko.
“We’re worried essentially that three church officials allegedly knew of these credible allegations against a predator priest and, at best, stayed silent and, at worst, helped conceal them,” said David Clohessy, SNAP national director.
That letter states that since the allegations were made, “to the best of our knowledge, there has been no personal visit by top church staff to Patejko’s former parishes to urge victims to come forward and get help; no public announcements on the diocesan Web site, in the diocesan newspaper, in parish bulletins, or news releases to the media and public about Patejko’s wrongdoing…”
Bishop Aquila responded to the letter last month in the form of a letter to the editor that was printed in the Fargo Forum on Dec. 22, 2009.
“The most important message”
While the SNAP organization continues to criticize the Fargo Diocese, Schwiderski said the group’s main mission is to offer support and resources for victims. He, too, was abused by a Catholic priest as a boy in Hector, MN, Schwiderski said.
“You are not alone. Thousands of people in SNAP lived through the same burden and we’re here to help,” he added. “We’re not against the church. The issue is that people have been harmed and they need help.”
More on SNAP
SNAP, established in 1989, is a support group for women and men abused by religious authority figures in the United States. SNAP is an independent, 501(c) 3 non-profit organization with no connections with any churches. The group claims to have more than 4,500 members in 55 active chapters.
Reach SNAP at www.SNAPnetwork.org or at 1-877-762-7432.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.