ST. LOUIS (MO)
DavidClohessy.com [St. Louis MO]
July 19, 2023
By David G. Clohessy
A bishop who was forced out of office because he covered up clergy sex abuse wants to minister in St. Louis. Catholic officials should not let this happen.
Bishop Richard Stika just resigned, in part, because of considerable controversy over how he dealt with two recent predatory clerics in his Knoxville diocese.*
Stika has publicly said that he plans to move home and do some church work in his native St. Louis (where, for years, he played a prominent role in dealing with predator priests).
If this happens, it will be a reckless and callous move. St. Louis Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski should immediately and public prohibit Stika from working here. If he refuses, Pope Francis should do this.
Here’s why: Those who commit abuse largely CANNOT be deterred. They are driven by a deeply-rooted, extraordinarily strong compulsion that overpowers their capability to think rationally. But those who conceal abuse CAN be deterred. But only if they experience severe consequences for knowingly and repeatedly acting recklessly, callously and deceitfully in cases of child sexual assault.
That, however, is precisely the opposite message the church hierarchy – and society in general – will recieve if Stika is permitted to do any work or ministry in any capacity for or in the St. Louis Archdiocese.
Giving Stika any role here sends the message: “In the Catholic church, no matter how irresponsibly, selfishly or hurtfully or deceptively you handle abuses and cover ups, your brother clerics will always welcome and support you.”
That’s the message, to the great dismay of hundreds of thousands of grieving and betrayed Catholics, that was sent in 2002 when Boston’s Cardinal Law was given a prestigious post in Rome after his horrific cover ups were revealed in the news media.
That’s the message, to the great dismay of survivors and their loved ones, that Catholic officials send every time they choose to ignore – or worse reward – wrongdoing by their brother clerics.
Some believe that allowing Stika to continue acting like he did nothing wrong and minister here is a ‘slap in the face’ to the wounded.
It’s actually much worse. It’s dangerous to the vulnerable.
It’s encouraging others on the church payroll to put their own careers, comfort and reputations ahead of the safety of children and the concerns of the flock.
It’s telling clerics to continue turning a blind eye to abuse, or even helping to hide it, because their church supervisors will make sure they’ll have a job no matter what they do.
In a nutshell, at this point, letting Stika work for the church, in any capacity, incentivizes deceit.
It moves the church in exactly the wrong direction.
It should not be allowed.
Archbishop Rozanski can – and should – prevent this. To reassure suffering survivors and distraught Catholics, Rozanski must tell Stika that he can’t have any role in the church here and promise parishioners that he’ll denounce and discipline Stika should he try to do so.
Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
Missouri volunteer SNAP director