Priest Abuse Survivor Group Lashes out at Diocese after St. Aloysius Priest Sexting “covered up by Church”
By Phil Stilton
October 4, 2013
|David Clohessy – Executive Director – SNAP|
David Clohessy, the director of the Chicago based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) lashed out against the Trenton Catholic Diocese and Bishop David M. O’Connell for the handling of former St. Aloysius priest, Father Matthew Riedlinger.
A message posted on the SNAP website by Clohessy read:
We firmly believe that Fr. Matthew Riedlinger is being suspended now only because these brave victims spoke up and because O’Connell fears that media attention will bring even more victims forward.
Now is not the time for complacency. The root cause of this crisis remains unaddressed – the obsession by Catholic officials to protect one another and their reputations, instead of protecting innocent kids and vulnerable adults. Belatedly and grudgingly suspending just one sexually troubled and abusive cleric won’t fix this on-going and disturbing scandal.
We hope that every single person who saw, suspected or suffered misdeeds or crimes by Fr. Riedlinger – or any other Trenton cleric – will find the courage and strength to step forward. That’s how innocent kids and vulnerable adults are protected, secrets are exposed and cover ups are deterred.
SNAP was founded in 1988 by Barabara Blaine after living for years after being abused as an 8th grader by a Toledo, Ohio priest. Her calls to the Toledo bishop fell on deaf ears, so she began reaching out and networking with other victims of abuse at the hands of religious leaders.
In 1992, Blaine met Clohessy at a support meeting San Francisco. The two now manage the SNAP organization, helping thousands of victims and maintaining a watchdog website on the subject. The group now has 15,000 members worldwide and offers support to victims in every kind of institutional setting, not just Catholic churches. Their reach has grown to include schools, non-Catholic churches and other institutions where authority figures can take advantage of children and young adults.
This time, they are watching over the actions of the Trenton Diocese and St. Aloysius Church.
“For months, Trenton’s Catholic bishop has kept hidden the fact that one of his priests sent 1,200 inappropriate sexual text messages to what he thought was a teenaged boy and had sexually harassed at least five teenagers and young men, some of whom were seminarians,” Clohessy said.
Clohessy, a victim himself, stressed the importance of closure and justice to those who have been abused. ”Personal recovery doesn’t take place in a vacuum and is often times hampered by the fact that those who commit those crimes are often left in power,” he said.
Clohessy also expressed disappointment with the handling of the incident by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office, then under the command of Marlene Lynch Ford. Ford now serves as a supreme court judge in Burlington County.
“It’s always disappointing when the independent and experience professionals in law enforcement aren’t able to act, but that doesn’t change the wrongdoing by father Riedlinger and the bishop,” he said.
Al DellaFave, spokes person for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s office, now led by Prosecutor Joseph Coronato said, “The records we have here show that there was a jurisdictional issue and how the investigation was conducted by a civilian and not a by a law enforcement agent. There are laws we have to follow regarding the person who is undercover and the line of questioning that was used.” DellaFave said his office is not reopening the case, but added, “If somebody were to come forward with allegations, we would of course investigate.”
Clohessy said that the inaction by the Prosecutor’s office prompted the victims in this case to take matters into their own hands.
“I applaud these brave young men for approaching law enforcement,” he said. ”Often, when criminal prosecution can’t happen, victims turn to civil litigation, but many states including New Jersey have archaic creditor friendly laws that prevent civil suits against predators. I think what matters most here is that these courageous young men have publicly exposed this serious wrongdoing by a priest and a bishop…Teenagers and vulnerable adults are safer now because of what they have they done.”
It’s a very common theme that they have seen far too often, Clohessy added, ”In the past month, child sex abuse allegations have come against 5 New Jersey priests. Most has been made public despite and not because of the bishops.”
Clohessy issued harsh words for Riedlinger and the church. ”The bishop is irresponsible and disingenuous. His excuses ring hollow. His flock should be outraged. And every single person who saw, suspected or suffered misdeeds by Fr. Riedlinger should call police, expose wrongdoing, deter cover ups, get help and protect others.”