|Statement about Tonight's Vigil in Baltimore on the Eve of the US Catholic Bishops Conference
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
November 9, 2008
We're here tonight for three reasons.
The first is because of a recently complicit Cardinal, a Cardinal who heads the US bishops conference.
The second is because of a recently criminal priest, a priest who fathered kids and then molested them.
The third is because of our mission: to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
1. We're asking Cardinal Francis George of Chicago to step aside as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. His track record on clergy sex crimes and cover ups has been markedly worse than that of his colleagues. But it is his very recent misdeeds that lead us to make this request.
In particular, we are concerned about his continuing duplicity and recklessness regarding Fr. Kenneth J. Martin, who taught and molested at a Catholic school in Baltimore's suburbs. These aren't allegations. They are facts. Martin pled guilty to criminal charges of sexually assaulting a boy for three years. Even now, six years after promising to be open and transparent about clergy sex crimes, George secretly keeps.
A priest who was convicted for molesting a Baltimore child now works for Cardinal Francis George, head of the Chicago archdiocese and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, according to, news accounts in Illinois last month. Despite this, and other recent egregious mishandling of child sex cases and cover ups in Chicago, George will chair tomorrow's annual national meeting of 200+ American Catholic bishops. SNAP wants him to resign.
From 1977-1980, Fr. Kenneth J. Martin repeatedly molested a teenaged boy. Martin was teaching at the school the boy attended - Loyola Blakefield Catholic High School in suburban Baltimore. In December 2001, Martin pled guilty to the crimes.
Despite this, in 2003, George secretly let Martin live part-time at George's mansion in Chicago. When Martin's employment in Chicago was disclosed publicly, George promised he would no longer work in the archdiocese. Last month, however, media sources disclosed that Martin is still on the payroll.
This is stunning recklessness and deceit by Cardinal George. He's essentially thumbing his nose at parents, victims, children, and the 'zero tolerance' policy adopted by America's bishops five years ago.
Hiding and tolerating pedophile priests in your own diocese is bad enough. But importing pedophile priests from elsewhere, especially secretly, is even worse.
It's absurd and insulting that George's public relations staff tries to minimize Martin's time in Chicago. Whether Martin comes to Chicago seven times or 70 times is irrelevant. George is gambling with kids' lives. (It takes only seconds for a child molester to shove his hand in a child's pants.)
He's also rubbing salt into already deep and still fresh wounds of Chicago Catholics who are still reeling from his dangerous deception and callousness with Fr. McCormack, Fr. Bennett, Fr. McGuire, and so many other predators.
For many other reasons, but most especially this one, George owes it to American Catholics and victims to step aside and If the head of the bishops conference makes such disingenuous and dangerous moves, and gets by with them, why would any other bishop take seriously his pledges to safeguard kids and be honest?
2. We're also concerned a newly accused pedophile priest in Baltimore. He's Fr. Fernando Cristancho. Last month, a court determined that, in the last few years, Cristancho molested two of the three kids he surreptitiously fathered. Yet he walks free, and we worry that he may molest again.
We want church officials in Maryland and Virginia, where Cristancho also worked, to make more aggressive efforts to find any victims and witnesses of Cristancho's crime and urge them to call police.
We also want Baltimore's archbishop to yank Cristancho's passport so he can't flee the country.
We beg anyone with information about Cristancho to come forward immediately, get help, and call law enforcement.
3. Finally, we're here because our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
The wounded are healed best when victims and witnesses find the courage and strength to break their silence and come forward. That, in turn, happens best when victims and witnesses are gently but lovingly prodded to come forward. This is what SNAP does every single day, and what we are doing again tonight.
The vulnerable are protected best when church officials honor their pledges and act responsibly. That, sadly, only seems to happen when concerned Catholics, determined journalists, aggressive prosecutors and caring victims pressure church officials. That's what SNAP dose every single day, and what we are doing again tonight.
Why are we here so late? Many bishops, we're told, arrive here Sunday night. If nothing else, we hope that a few may walk by or see us out their windows. In the church structure, they're powerful monarchs, and we're powerless peons. So we have no illusions that our presence here will make any real difference in their callous, deceptive and reckless behavior. Still, we feel duty bound to at least try to expose callousness, deception and recklessness when we can, especially when those behaving in this way hold themselves out to be holy and compassionate shepherds. We simply cannot, in good conscience, sit home and stay silent while prelates like George act so irresponsibly and priests like Cristancho act so criminally.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 19 years and have more than 8,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
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