SNAP Takes on Conference of Catholic Bishops

By Andrew Cannarsa
November 10, 2008

A group of clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters gathered in Baltimore Monday to call for the resignation of the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, criticizing the conference's investigations of child sex abuses charges.

Surrounded by fellow clergy abuse survivors Francis Bacon, 74, far left, of Baltimore, Becky Ianni, 51, of Burke, Va., and Barbara Blaine, 52, of Chicago, speaks to the media outside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel on Monday where the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Conference will hold its annual gather. Blaine, holding a photo of herself at age 12 when her abuse started, says "We believe predator bishops pose just as much risk to children as predator priests. They are unmonitored."
Photo by Kristine Buls

"We're concerned for the safety of children and vulnerable adults," said Barbara Blaine, president and founder of Chicago-based support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Blaine, who said she was 12 when she was abused by clergy member in Chicago, and supporters called for Chicago's Cardinal Francis George to resign his leadership post with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Blaine spoke outside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel, where more than 200 bishops in the conference are holding their annual Fall General Assembly this week.

SNAP sent a letter to George on Sunday, saying it is "irresponsible and reckless" to allow accused pedophile priests and bishops to walk free with without supervision and/or treatment. There are at least 10 bishops across the country who have been accused of molesting children, but there whereabouts are unknown and there is little monitoring of their situation, according to SNAP.

Blaine said SNAP has not yet received a response from George.

"Cardinal George is clearly reckless in how he deals with these cases," Blaine said. "They make lofty statements and have policies that look good on paper, but considering they don't follow them, they're meaningless. It shows a lack of commitment on their part."

SNAP also called for a new national review board to be created to objectively look into child sex allegations against a bishop.

Currently, a local diocesan review board, appointed by a bishop, looks into the allegations.

"I just don't believe that review boards, appointed by a bishop, are going to be that objective," Blaine said.

Francis Bacon, 74, of Baltimore County, was 13 when he said he was abused by a clergy member in Baltimore. Bacon attended the rally and said he didn't reveal his incident to his wife until they were married for 28 years.

"The sad part about it is we have this leadership that's not doing anything about these problems, and they know it's there," Bacon said. "They're not being accountable for their actions."



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