Protesters Demand Names of Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse
By Elizabeth Findell
October 4, 2012
Barbara.jpg SAN JUAN, TX - 3 OCT 12 Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), makes a plea to Bishop Daniel Flores to reveal the any names of priest who are working in the Diocese of Brownsville who have been accused of sexaul abuse in front of supporters who hold the faces of children SNAP claims where sexual abused by priest national during a press conference near the offices of the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle National Shrine October 3, 2012 in San Juan. photo by joel firstname.lastname@example.org
A small cluster of activists gathered for the media Wednesday morning outside the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville offices near the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan Del Valle holding pictures of children – victims of sexual abuse by clergy members across the country.
Such victims exist in the Rio Grande Valley, too, but their abusers remain anonymous, they said.
Members of the national support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) and the local branch of Catholic activist group Call to Action held the news conference to call on Bishop Daniel Flores to release the names of priests within the Brownsville diocese who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
The diocese released a report in 2004 indicating that it has reason to believe that seven area priests sexually abused children between 1965 and 2004, based on 12 allegations.
“These people may still be in our community and people may still be vulnerable,” said David Jackson, co-chair of Call to Action.
Publishing the names is also important to help victims move on and let them know they are not alone, he added.
Barbara Blaine, the Chicago-based co-founder of SNAP, echoed the cry and called for church officials to more actively warn the international church community about Father Basil Onyia, who fled San Juan in 2001 to his native Nigeria to escape charges of sexually abusing a mentally retarded teenage girl.
A Chicago Tribune investigation earlier this year into fugitive Catholic priests noted that Onyia continued to work at a parish ministry in Nigeria after he fled.
Then-Bishop Raymundo Pena caught fire in 2004 for not releasing the names of other accused priests, according to previous Monitor reporting. Call to Action members said they have asked Flores to release the names several times since he was named bishop three years ago.
Many priests accused of abuse never face charges due to statues of limitations on reporting, but at least 22 bishops in the country have released names of those credibly accused, according to Massachusetts-based nonprofit Bishop-Accountability.org.
Diocesan Relations Director Brenda Nettles Riojas confirmed that it is not the diocese’s policy to identify priests accused of abuse, but did not respond to why that is by press time.
She emphasized that no current members of the ministry have been accused of sexual misconduct and cited a June story in The Valley Catholic newspaper stating that there have not been any credible local cases of clergy abuse since 2004.
Walter Lukaszek, local coordinator for Protecting God’s Children to safeguard against abuse in the church and serve as a liaison to victims, said he has taken a number of steps to protect youth in the church since he came onboard 10 years ago.
The church provides programs to teach children to tell a parent or adult they trust if any anyone ever touches them in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable, he said. It also provides outreach to parents of the “most vulnerable” children to encourage them to talk to their kids about such issues.
“What we have in the Catholic church is a good safety net – as good as it can be – for kids and their parents,” he said.
Elizabeth Findell covers Pharr, San Juan, Alamo, the Mid-Valley and general assignments for The Monitor. She can be reached at email@example.com and (956) 683-4428.