SNAP Calls on Pope to Ban Boston's Cardinal O'Malley from Papal Events

Voice from the Desert
April 10, 2008

Received by email this morning, 4.10.2008, from SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris.

* * *

For immediate release, Thursday, April 10

Clergy sex victims ask Pope to reject Boston's Cardinal

O'Malley should be banned from papal events for "breaking abuse promises"

For 2nd year in a row, archdiocese violates pledge to train kids in prevention

SNAP asks Benedict to 'take action' to 'show kids & abuse policy really matter'

The nation's largest support group for clergy sexual abuse victim is asking Pope Benedict XVI to ban Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley from attending events during the pontiff's U.S. tour, including a mass at Yankee stadium.

That's because the Archdiocese of Boston has for the past two years been found in violation of the U.S. bishops' child sex abuse charter by not providing abuse prevention training to thousands of Boston Catholic children. Its latest breach was disclosed last month.

"O'Malley's repeated breaking of the national bishops' policy is scandalous and dangerous," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, outreach director for SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "For five years, bishops have been required to teach all Catholic kids how to protect themselves. But by O'Malley's own admission, he's failed to provide that training to 20% of Boston's Catholic children. That's inexcusably reckless."

SNAP leaders asked that O'Malley be shunned in a letter sent today to the Pope's US representative, Papal Nuncio Pietro Sambi in Washington DC. It was delivered by fax and email.

Last month, SNAP wrote to O'Malley, saying "You have had five years to get on board (with this requirement). It is stunning and irresponsible that you have not." They asked him to "personally visit each (non-compliant) parish and move quickly to remedy this stubborn refusal to adopt a simple, long-overdue safety measure."

O'Malley hasn't responded to their letter.

"Telling O'Malley to stay home is the single most effective step the Pope could take to show American Catholics that he takes child safety seriously," said Dorris. "On the other hand, ignoring O'Malley's recalcitrance and recklessness sends the message that child protection promises can be broken with no consequences."

When the bishop's sex abuse charter was adopted in 2002, there were no built-in measures of accountability and no provisions for penalizing bishops who don't comply. "Only the pope can penalize bishops," said the American bishops, who promised to hold one another accountable through "fraternal correction." SNAP maintains that's never happened.

"The charter helps foster a false sense of safety," Dorris said. "It sounds good on paper but is rarely enforced. Not a single bishop has experienced a single consequence for violating the charter. So while it's a terrific public relations maneuver, in reality, it's a toothless tiger. With one phone call, Pope Benedict can change this."

"Bishops have pledged to be vigilant about child safety, yet are ignoring their own weak, vague policies adopted just a few years ago," Dorris said. "And Boston, of all places, should be the most vigilant, compliant diocese in America - the last place to ignore or break the church's official, nationwide child sex abuse prevention promises."

Nine other bishops were found to be violating the charter last month. But SNAP is singling out O'Malley because he's broken the rules two years in a row and because SNAP considers the abuse prevention requirement "perhaps the most effective part of the whole package," Dorris said.

"Much of the charter is meaningless public relations," she said. "But studies show that teaching kids how to protect themselves can work."

Last week, SNAP called on the pope to ban Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Neb., from events. He has refused to participate in any of the USCCB 'audits,' which are conducted to ensure the charter is being enforced.

A copy of SNAP's letter is below:

April 10, 2008

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

Apostolic Palace

Via Del Pellegrino

Citta Del Vaticano 00120

Vatican City State

In Care Of:

Most Reverend Pietro Sambi

Apostolic Pro-Nuncio

3339 Massachusetts Av. N.W.

Washington, DC 20005

Dear Holy Father,

Just one bishop disciplined for recklessness about child safety. That's what's missing. If Catholic officials are to ever take child protection seriously, that's what must happen.

In the US, roughly 5,000 current and former .priests are proven, admitted or credibly accused pedophiles. Hundreds of their supervisors and colleagues either knew or suspected their child molestation but stayed silent or concealed them. Yet not a single church employee has ever been disciplined for deceit or cover ups of these devastating child sex crimes. Not one.

Six years ago, under tremendous pressure, America's Catholic bishops adopted a policy that was designed to prevent future abuse. That policy is weak, vague, and sporadically enforced. No one who breaks it suffers any consequences. There is, therefore, little or no incentive to reform the dangerous patterns of secrecy and deceit that led to tens of thousands of boys and girls being sexually violated by Catholic clergy.

One violation of that policy is most disturbing: the Boston archdiocese's repeated breaching of the promise to train kids in abuse prevention. Two years in a row, church officials have documented that violation. At least 20% of Boston Catholic children aren't getting this simple, long-overdue safety training. And no one's doing anything about it.

You can and should. To show you are serious about keeping children safe, we beg you forbid Cardinal Sean O'Malley from participating in your U.S. tour.

O'Malley's refusal to honor his pledges, and the pledges of all US bishops, is reckless and inexcusable. Some victims consider it an egregious insult to all of us who were raped or sexually assaulted by priests, nuns, bishops, seminarians, and brothers. But it's worse than that. It's keeping kids at risk of being molested.

Many church officials, here and elsewhere, continue their old mindset and misbehaviors in the dealings with the crisis. But for the Boston archbishop to do so is inexcusable.

The US bishops' sex abuse charter includes no accountability measures for bishops who failed to follow it. (The bishops assured the American church that they would offer one another "fraternal correction." That's virtually never happened.) So when one bishop breaks the rules, his colleagues point their fingers to Rome. "Only the Pope," they say, can penalize bishops."

In this instance, you can and should take such action. Ignoring O'Malley's continuing violations sends a terrible signal, to victims, to Catholics, and to the American public.

Keeping him in Boston next week sends the signal that childrens' safety matters, that bishops' promises matter, and that recklessness and recalcitrance won't be rewarded.

Finally, our interest is in prevention, not punishment. We ask that O'Malley be disciplined not out of anger or spite, but because it is just and will, we believe, deter future recklessness and recalcitrance. Overlooking his violations, on the other hand, will encourage future misdeeds by church officials regarding child safety.

That, as history shows, brings disastrous results.

Thank you for your consideration.

David Clohessy

National Director, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

7234 Arsenal Street

St. Louis MO 63143

314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915

Barbara Blaine

President, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

PO Box 6416

Chicago IL 60680

312 399 4747

Barbara Dorris

Outreach Coordinator, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

6245 Westminster

St. Louis MO 63130


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