Tyler Diocese Hailed As Leading Example on Handling Sexual Abuse by Priests
By Summer Dashe
February 21, 2014
A former bishop at the Catholic Diocese of Tyler is the only one in the world, according to a victims of sexual assault group, to respond to an incident surrounding sexual assault by a priest.
We told you first last week about Father Robert Poandl, also known as Father Bob. Just over a week ago, Poandl was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old boy. Poandl had worked for the Catholic Diocese of Tyler during the mid to late '90s. He also worked as a parish priest in Pittsburg, Tex. However, the boy who was assaulted was not from East Texas.
The Tyler diocese has been reaching out to any other possible victims ever since they heard about Poandl in 2010.
Now, a national victim's organization called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, is praising the Tyler Diocese for their assistance. We spoke with both SNAP and the Tyler Diocese and both organizations say this is a big step forward for the church and for victims of sexual assault.
It's a response the people at SNAP have been praying for.
"It's shockingly amazing to us because we have asked thousands of times for bishops, even throughout the world, to do this and reach out to victims, potential victims," Judy Jones, with SNAP, said. "This bishop, in this diocese, is the only one that has done that."
After word spread to the Tyler diocese in 2010 of Father Bob's charges, a page was added to the Tyler Diocese website. It urges any other victims to come forward.
"It's very rare," Jones said. "I have hand-delivered letters to bishops. I have yet to ever meet a bishop, or shake a bishop's hand. They usually want to ignore the victims and they just want us all to go away."
But not the former bishop with the diocese of Tyler. He was the first ever to respond, willing to help.
"Bishop Alvaro Corrada really set the tone and I was very much working with him as we established the policies here in the diocese," Bishop Joseph Strickland, the current Tyler Diocese bishop, said.
Now the Tyler diocese is being praised a second time, for bishop Strickland's willingness to continue what Corrada started.
"Really focus on the children of God and remember in God's eyes, you know, we're all his children, perpetrator or victim," he explained. "God, I believe, is heartbroken to see any of us harming each other."
Judy hopes this reaction from the Tyler diocese will start a movement.
"We would hope that the Tyler, Texas, diocese has started a new trend. Every bishop in the world should do this," she said.
The hope is to encourage victims to speak up so that more don't have to suffer.
"It is a step forward, yes; every bishop should do this. Why not? It's only common sense and common decency," she said.
For Bishop Strickland, that's exactly what it comes down to.
"To let perpetrators with whatever they're dealing with know that there are consequences and that they will be dealt with, but also to let the victims know that they can and should speak up anytime."
His are words that have answered, and will continue to answer, so many prayers.
Judy Jones also said she was at both Poandl's sentencing and trial and that a total of three victims had come forward at that time.
None of those victims were from Tyler, but Jones said that's the most important reason to speak up, since many others are probably suffering in silence.