Sex Abuse Victims Want George to NOT
Change Policy Yet
SNAP Asks For “Action, Not Words,” Fearing Complacency
They Urge Cardinal George To Consult
Hurting Parishes,” Support Group Urges Cardinal
Clergy sex abuse victims are urging
Chicago Catholic officials to “resist the temptation to change
words on paper” and hold off on changing their sex abuse policy
until they have more widely consulted with experts and victims
and taken more steps to reach out to victims.
Instead, they want Cardinal Francis
George to take “prompt pastoral” action to prod victims to report
In a letter sent today to the Cardinal,
leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network
of those Abused by Priests, want George to:
•personally start visiting churches
this weekend where Fr. Daniel McCormack and Fr. Joseph Bennett
have been assigned, emphatically reminding Catholics that
they have a moral and civic duty to disclose anything they
know about these allegations to law enforcement,” and
•meet with a wider circle of independent
experts and victims before revising his abuse guidelines.
For two weeks, George’s staff has
said they are considering changes to the archdiocesan policy.
But that’s not really the problem, SNAP maintains.
“It’s the Cardinal’s flawed actions, not his flawed policies,”
said Kenneth Morrison of Chicago, a SNAP leader. “Words on paper
don’t protect kids, decisive action protects kids. But George’s
actions are about protecting priests’ reputations, not children’s
“Bishops under fire insist on self-diagnosing
and self-medicating, instead of sitting down with outside experts,”
said Barbara Blaine of Chicago, founder of a support group called
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “The Cardinal
claims his policies are flawed. We disagree. But if he relies
on the same advisors and process, he’ll get the same outcome.
It’s time he widens his circle.”
copy of SNAP’s letter, sent today via fax and e mail to George,
Dear Cardinal George:
In the last three weeks, Chicagoans
have learned of seven new credibly accused abusive priests.
They include Fr. John Rohrick,
Fr. Howard Strum, Fr. Paul O’Toole, Msgr. Dominic Diederich,
Fr. Joseph Bennett, Fr. William J. Spine and Fr. Daniel McCormack.
The latter three (Bennett, Spine,
and McCormack) remained in active ministry until the last few
days or weeks. The first three (Rohrick, Strum, and O’Toole)
were exposed Saturday, when a woman announced her once-secret
$125,000 settlement against the archdiocese: http://www.wbbm780.com/pages/7192.php
At least two of them – Bennett
and McCormack – were apparently first accused years ago. Both
were allegedly secretly being monitored by fellow priests (even
though there are no such provision for such an arrangement in
the US Bishops Conference abuse policy adopted in Dallas).
We bring all this up in light of
your apparent plan to announce yet another “reform” in your local
sex abuse policy soon. We ask you to reconsider. Changing your
policy at this point, we believe, is deceptive and will lead only
to a false, premature complacency on the part of some.
In 2002, bishops faced tremendous
pressure to do something about the horrifying clergy sex abuse
and cover up scandal that dominating the nation’s headlines. Bishops
hurriedly and arrogantly self-diagnosed and self-medicated, insisting
that they understood both the problem and its solution.
That was probably good public relations.
But it was bad public policy. We ask you to please not make this
same mistake again.
Your alleged rationale for again
revising your policy is that you supposedly couldn’t remove McCormack
or Bennett sooner. We think this is ridiculous.
The Catholic church is a monarchy.
In Chicago, you are the king. Priests have no union. You can suspend
a priest anytime for anything. To claim otherwise is ludicrous.
(Does anyone really think these priests would have remained in
active ministry for years while your staff allegedly investigated
allegations that they stole money or advocated abortion?)
We believe “where there’s a will,
there’s a way,” and that if you truly valued the safety of dozens
of kids (more than the reputation of one adult), you would have
removed Fr. Bennett and Fr. McCormack months or even years ago.
Apparently, you soon plan to try
and shift attention from your behavior to your policy. But before
doing this, Cardinal, we respectfully ask that you address some
key unresolved questions about these recent scandals:
2.You claimed the family of a McCormack
victim who came forward last August never contacted church
officials. That mother disputes this. She says she "called
the archdiocese to report the allegations within days of learning
of the abuse and going to police in late August" and she “talked
to archdiocesan officials on at least three occasions in September
-- twice by phone, and once in person at a meeting with a
teacher and a principal." http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-mom07.html
3.You claim that McCormack and
Bennett were “monitored” by other priests. Yet you’ve produced
not a single shred of evidence to back up this claim. Will
you disclose the written instructions you secretly gave these
alleged “monitors” and the documents explaining why you’ve
deviated from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ policies
by devising a secret monitoring arrangement?
Instead of “revisiting” your policy
this week, we recommend action, not words. Specifically, instead
of “tweaking” your apparently ignored policy, we urge you to
•Hold meetings at other wounded
parishes like the one you held at St. Agatha’s. As best we
can tell, you have not visited any of the other parishes where
these seven accused priests worked.
•Get input from truly independent
experts in the field of child sexual abuse and prosecution,
not just a handpicked few. We’ll be glad to sit down with
you ourselves, and recommend some non-Catholic authorities
from outside of Chicago who can give you good advice based
on years of experience.
•Finally, we urge you to educate
your flock. Please let them know that the enemy is not the
news media or some nameless “enemies of the church.” The enemy
is complacency. It's the tempting but dangerous assumption
that decades of abuse and secrecy have suddenly and magically
been reversed, in just three short years, by the very men
who got us into this mess to begin with. But that’s naïve.
We beg you to tell our parishioners this.
Complacency protects no one. Only
vigilance protects kids.
Cardinal George, after years and
years of scandal, we have sadly become convinced it's not the
church's procedures that are flawed, it's the church's leadership
that is flawed. (And it will remain flawed until lay people insist
on real change, not cosmetic, paper “reforms.”)
Again, we urge you to lead by constructive
action, not comforting words.
If you persist in announcing yet
another “policy change,” and trying to pass it off as another
allegedly significant “reform,” we ask that you consider the example
you’re setting for young Catholics.
As young Catholics, we're taught
to take responsibility for our sins. We aren't allowed to enter
the confessional and say "I meant well, but my process was insufficient."
Nor are we allowed to avoid consequences
for our sins by saying "I've apologized, and I've fixed my process
National Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused
7234 Arsenal Street
Saint Louis, MO 63143
314 645 5915, 314 566 9790 cell
Outreach Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused
6245 Westminster Place
Saint Louis, MO 63130
314 862 7688
President and Founder, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused
700 N. Green, Suite 504
Chicago, IL 60622
312 399 4747
Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP
Outreach Director 314 503 0003
In the last few weeks, we’ve learned
about seven more about alleged abusive Chicago priests.
The Cardinal didn’t tell us.
His assistant bishops didn’t tell
His PR man didn’t tell us.
His so-called Victims Assistance
Coordinator didn’t tell us.
His so-called Lay Review Board
didn’t tell us.
His dozens and dozens of chancery
office staff didn’t tell us.
His hundreds and hundreds of priests
didn’t tell us.
We learned about these accused
child molesters because of brave victims, good cops, and a caring
Victims spoke up about Fr. Joseph
Police arrested Fr. Dan McCormack.
A Catholic lay women “outed” Monsignor
A religious order suspended Fr.
William J. Spine.
A victim publicly named Fr. John
Rohrick, Fr. Howard Strum, and Fr. Paul O’Toole
Only after these individuals took
action did Cardinal George do something.
All of these men were accused years
ago. But the Cardinal didn’t warn his flock. The Cardinal kept
The same old, same old.
Something must change.
We believe that those who don’t
learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
We also believe that those who
don’t discipline wrong-doers encourage wrong-doers.
We know church officials will accuse
us of being angry and vindictive.
But everyone knows that when there
are no consequences for recklessness, recklessness continues.
So for the safety of kids, for
the healing of victims, and for the good of the church, we believe
two things must happen:
First, Cardinal George must be
disciplined, and second, members of his staff must be disciplined.
Tweaking a so-called policy and
offering a so-called apology changes nothing. Those have been
done time and time and time again.
Action protects kids, not apologies.
People protect kids, not policies.
In government, in the business
world, in the military, in other non-profits, irresponsible behavior
that leads to the rape of children is not tolerated.
But in the Chicago archdiocese,
it IS tolerated, because nothing happens to anyone who acts recklessly
and causes kids to be sodomized.
That much change.
A few adults’ heads must roll,
or else many kids’ psyches may be shattered.
A few older egos must be bruised,
or else many younger psyches may be scarred.
A few grown ups should be fired,
or else many children will be vulnerable.
If non-pedophiles on the church
payroll ignore or help or cover up for pedophiles, they should
Let’s get specific.
The buck stops with Cardinal George.
Ultimately, he should be disciplined for the fact that innocent
kids were needlessly put at risk and likely repeatedly molested
on his watch because he prefers secrecy to openness and he cares
more about his reputation than his flock.
We call on the US Conference of
Catholic Bishops, headed by Bishop William Skylstad, to do this.
And we call on National Review
Board, headed by Dr. Patricia Ewers, to do this.
In 2002, bishops pledged to hold
one another accountable on sex abuse cases. Bishops must have
the courage to speak out against wrong-doing by other bishops.
The secrecy of the old boys’ network must end.
The Review Board was allegedly
to be a “watchdog” over the bishops. Frankly, it’s become a “lap
If it is to have any credibility
or effectiveness, we believe its members must censure Cardinal
George for his continued recklessness and cowardice.
The Review Board allegedly oversees
compliance with the bishops’ national sex abuse policy. Cardinal
George has violated that policy and allegedly made up his own
policy – priests secretly monitoring accused pedophile priests.
He must be held accountable for this violation.
•In addition, several church staffers
might be sanctioned:
•the Catholic schools officials
to who apparently did nothing after a nun reported suspected
abuse six years ago
•the Catholic school administrator
told her "If the parents aren't pushing it, let it go.”
•the top chancery office staff
who proposed secretly appointing priests to “monitor” alleged
•the alleged “monitors” themselves
•the staff who are responsible
for the two year delay in suspending Fr. Joseph Bennett
Finally, if neither the National
Review Board nor the Bishops Conference finds the backbone to
speak up, Cardinal George should discipline himself.
No one relishes the idea of someone
being fired, or being suspended, or being disciplined. No one
wants to see another person suffer.
But we’re convinced that some adult
must endure consequences or else kids will keep enduring abuse.
just that simple.
And until some adult endures consequences,
all of Cardinal George’s words ring hollow. He can shout “zero
tolerance” at the top of his lungs. But if he insists on “all
carrot and no stick,” abuse will keep happening and being hidden
in his archdiocese.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests, a support group