'Who They Are ... Where They Are Now'

By Ed Palattella [Pennsylvania]
Downloaded June 30, 2003

Judith Prenatt wants a Megan's Law for sexually abusive priests who escaped prosecution.

The Meadville woman also would like to see abusive priests removed from the ministry and placed at one church-run location in each diocese.

"They can build a house for these people where they can be under strict supervision - under lock and key," said Prenatt, the head of the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of S.N.A.P., or Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "Let them sew robes for the church or something. Just don't put them back into society."

As the Catholic Diocese of Erie takes what it considers to be steps toward openness regarding clergy sexual abuse, Prenatt has taken a hard-line stance.

She said Bishop Donald W. Trautman and other prelates nationwide should realize that pedophilia cannot be cured, and they must let the public know the names of abusive priests.

"Who they are, where they were and where they are now," Prenatt said. "I think anyone has a right to know whether they have a molester living next to them."

Prenatt, 52, understands the damage of child abuse. Her brother, Clair Prenatt, 45, said he was abused by the Rev. Thomas E. Smith when Clair Prenatt was 10 years old. The Catholic Diocese of Erie in 2002 removed Smith from the ministry based on similar allegations of molestation from an Erie man, now 43.

Her brother's experience led Judith Prenatt to found the local S.N.A.P. chapter, which so far is a one-woman operation. Judith Prenatt said she counsels victims - in person, by telephone or via e-mail - and monitors information on abusive priests. Her goal now is to push Trautman for full disclosure of the names of abusive priests.

Trautman was unavailable for comment on Judith Prenatt's effort. Trautman did say in written remarks to the Erie Times-News that he has no plans to release the names of abusive priests. He said the 13-county Erie diocese has taken steps to be more transparent but that he must also consider the rights of priests.

Judith Prenatt has a different interpretation of transparency. She said openness should start with every bishop releasing the names of all the abusive priests.

"They should stop protecting the name of the church," she said, "and protect the children."

ED PALATTELLA can be reached at 870-1813 or by e-mail.


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