|Sex Abuse Victims Challenge Catholic Officials
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
January 13, 2009
"Stop The Secrecy About Clergy Sex Crimes," They Urge
Group Blasts Wyoming Diocese For "Staying Silent" When "Proven Predator" Violated Probation
Self Help Organization Also Wants Church Panel to Review Allegations Against Retired Wyoming Bishop
At a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will blast Wyoming's Catholic officials for staying silent about a convicted pedophile priest who was recently jailed for violating his probation. They will also hand deliver a letter urging church staff to
-- apologize for and explain their secrecy,
-- warn citizens about the predator, and
-- investigate accusations that Wyoming's retired Catholic bishop molested at least one boy here and others in Missouri.
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 1:30 p.m.
Outside the Catholic Pastoral Center 2121 Capitol Avenue in Cheyenne
One or two men who were molested as kids by clergy and who belong to a national support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org)
In 2006, Fr. John Murray pleaded guilty to sexually abusing a girl in 1976 and 1977 at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Casper. Three months ago, Murray spent a week behind bars because his probation agent saw him with kids. According to his plea deal, Murray is required to get the approval of his probation agent and sex offender therapist before being around youngsters.
That news became public last week, only because the Star Tribune newspaper reported it. SNAP leaders strongly feel Wyoming church officials should have disclosed that this proven predator is around kids, even though he's not supposed to be. This is especially true, the group believes, because Murray is apparently still a priest on the diocesan payroll and because bishops have repeatedly pledged "openness and transparency" in child sex cases.
SNAP also believes Murray probably violated his parole conditions other times but was not detected, because it defies common sense that the first and only time a child molester breaks the rules, he happens to be caught. SNAP wants him to be harshly punished because criminals are deterred from wrongdoing only if wrongdoing has real consequences. (Murray's probation could be revoked, according to news accounts.)
The group also wants Cheyenne's diocesan sex abuse panel to probe allegations that retired Bishop Joseph Hart molested boys. In November, for the first time ever, a similar panel in Iowa determined that abuse allegations against retired Sioux City Bishop Laurence Soens were credible. (He is accused of abusing at least 31 boys.) SNAP feels Wyoming Catholics deserve to have the Cheyenne panel investigation similar accusations against Hart.
In August 2008, the last of six civil lawsuits charging Hart with child sex abuse were settled. Through his lawyers, Hart has denied the allegations. Last fall, however, one of his attorneys promised that Hart's position on the claims would be presented "at the appropriate time." Hart still has not addressed them.
Hart has been represented by Lawrence Ward in Missouri and by Jack Speight in Wyoming. His victims have been represented by Rebecca Randles and Sarah Brown of Kansas City (816 931 9901) and Patrick Noaker of St. Paul MN (651 227 9990, 612 961 1307 cell).
Jeb Barrett of Denver, SNAP Denver Director (720) 222 2412
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director (314) 566 9790 cell
Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Coordinator (314) 862 7688
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