Abuse survivor: Why I won't seek reparations from Syracuse diocese (Commentary)
By Kevin Braney
February 20, 2018
|Kevin Braney pictured June 2, 2014, in the backyard of the home he grew up in, on Stanwood Lane, Manlius.|
Photo by Michael Greenlar
I recently reviewed the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Commission procedures posted on the website for the Syracuse Catholic Diocese. I myself, as a survivor of priest sexual abuse, received a letter Feb. 17 that states I "may" qualify to submit a claim.
I commend Bishop Robert Cunningham for opening a path forward, as imperfect as it is, to aid survivors' healing. The commission will serve as a valuable tool to provide much needed relief for some.
Based upon my initial review, it appears this commission will not be part of my path forward. I will press onward in hopes the New York Child Victims Act passes. My analysis of the commission's protocols leads me to the below questions and concerns:
First, why do the protocols require me to relitigate my claim against Charles Eckermann? The Vatican already defrocked Eckermann. It took from September 2013 until April 2014, countless phone calls, meetings with investigators, written statements, oral statements, to ensure Eckermann no longer had access to children in his priestly role. Why is the previous investigation now insufficient?
The continued assertion that all priests who have raped children have been removed is false. Until all pedophile priests are in jail, children are at risk. Here are just two examples:
* On Nov. 3, 2016, I wrote Bishop Cunningham and provided the name of a priest who abducted and then raped a developmentally disabled person in 1997. In a July 9, 1998 letter, the New York state Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled substantiated this allegation upon completion of its own investigation. The police report is sealed. As recently as 2016, he was an active parish priest, and as of last month participated in Mass with Bishop Cunningham.
* In April 2015, my attorneys provided the Syracuse District Attorney's Office with a written statement naming an associate pastor at St. Ann's Church, in Manlius, who sexually abused me with Eckermann. No action was taken on this report until December 2016, when I reached out seeking information. So much for the much-celebrated memorandum of understanding between the seven district attorneys and the bishop. Two witnesses were never interviewed. Most egregiously, I was never interviewed by anyone in the DA's office, as publicly stated. How does the DA's office assess the credibility of a victim without interviewing the victim? Further, I was not interviewed by the church until after the local media reported that he had been cleared of all allegations.
What has changed to bring forward the desire for reconciliation? The only thing that has changed is, after years and years of paying lobbyists to deprive victims of justice and hiding the truth, the church sees the writing on the wall and now they are trying to settle these claims for pennies on the dollar and gather information about the true scope of their liability.
The horrors of the sexual abuse scandal in the Syracuse Diocese must be exposed, as do the names of the 11 pedophile priests Bishop Cunningham is refusing to make public; not just for the healing of the Catholic community, but for the safety of all Syracuse residents.