Mi - Letter to Archbishop Vigneron
By David Clohessy
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
January 30, 2013
Dear Archbishop Vigneron:
We are members of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.
In June 2002, you and your brother bishops formally pledged to be “open and transparent” in clergy child sex abuse and cover up cases.
Tragically, this promise was made belatedly, grudgingly, and only because of pressure. Worst of all, it was made only after tens of thousands of kids were sexually violated. Still, that pledge gave some Catholics hope. Over the past decade, however, that hope has often and largely been dashed.
You and your brother bishops have kept that promise only very sporadically and again, only in the face of public pressure. Consider your own recent actions.
1. In November 2011, you refused to warn your flock about Fr. Richard James Kurtz even though he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 10 year old boy outside Denver.
2. In May 2012, you refused to warn your flock about Fr. Thomas D. Williams who returned to the Detroit area after exploiting a woman and fathering her child (a child neither he nor his Catholic supervisors are supporting).
3. In June 2012, you refused to warn your flock about Fr. Maurice G. McNeely who returned to the Detroit area after being named in a civil lawsuit charging that McNeely sexually abuse a young boy in Hawaii in 1976.
And now, you’re refusing to disclose that a credibly accused serial child molesting cleric worked for years in your archdiocese.
You weren’t in the Detroit Archdiocese when Br. Stephen P. Baker worked there, but dozens of your staff were. It’s very unlikely that you and your entire Archdiocese officials were unaware of Baker’s presence at St. Mary's Prep in Orchard Lake, Michigan from 1983-1985.
Baker is accused of molesting at least 80 kids in two states. He worked in at least two other states: Michigan and Virginia.
Yet you and your staff were silent when his victims started coming forward in 2009 (or likely earlier). You and your staff were silent when settlements were reached with 11 of them in Oct. 2012. You and your staff were silent when those settlements were made public two weeks ago. You and your staff were silent when your brother bishops in Ohio and Pennsylvania addressed the allegations against Baker. And you and your staff were silent in the past few days, even after Baker’s death on Saturday.
We believe there is a good possibility that Baker abused kids in the Detroit area.
Given your callous silence and inaction in with all four of these recently “outed” offender clergymen, we can’t help but ask “How many other child molesting clerics are still hidden in the Detroit area?” And “How many secret deals like this have you made involving child molesting clerics?” And “Whatever became of your repeatedly pledges to be “open and transparent” in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases?”
We urge you and your fellow Detroit Catholic officials to
--explain why you’ve been secret about accusations against and settlements involving Baker,
--disclose whether Baker has allegedly of molesting any Michigan kids, and
--start aggressively seeking out others in Michigan who baker may have molested.
You have many resources, Archbishop. Among them are archdiocesan website, archdiocesan newspaper, parish bulletins and pulpit announcements. You also have much experience dealing with abuse. You know that it can make a difference when authority figures beg anyone who saw, suspected or suffered child crimes to come forward. We urge you to take this simple step to help anyone who may have been assaulted as a child and who may still be suffering as an adult. That’s the bare minimum an alleged “shepherd” would do for his “flock.”
It’s also important because while prosecution of Baker is impossible, those who ignored or concealed his crimes or intimidated his victims or discredited whistleblowers or threatened witnesses or destroyed evidence might still face criminal charges.