SNAP Challenges Diocese of Jefferson City

October 1, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY- The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, delivered a letter to the Jefferson City Catholic Diocese asking for more awareness about sexual abuse.

David Clohessy and Don Asbee are both survivors of who they call "predator priests." As children, priests in their local Catholic churches abused them and they say it's time to "stop the cycle." That is why they are involved with SNAP, an advocacy organization for victims like Clohessy and Asbee.

Hoping to raise more awareness about priest molestation, the organization visited the Catholic diocese in Jefferson City Wednesday morning. They delivered a letter that called the church to action. According to the letter, SNAP is asking church staff to:

* Admit that two local priests are dangerous and spent time in the diocese

* Put notices about the two predators in every parish bulletin, begging victims and witnesses to come forward

* "Come clean" about other secret settlements involving predator priests and other church employees

* Disclose the identities of any other child molesting clerics who have changed their names

"These are simple, inexpensive, proven steps that both help heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable," SNAP said of their demands.

The two priests the organization calls dangerous are Rev. Ken Roberts and Rev. Jerry Howard. Roberts was a priest from Dallas who moved to Osage Beach after retiring from the Dallas Diocese. His retirement was after allegations of kissing and "passionately hugging" children in the church, according to official forms from the Dallas Diocese.

SNAP says Howard moved from New Jersey after a conviction and changed his name before molesting Columbia teens. SNAP claims that pending investigations in Cooper County may show more allegations against Howard, but both the Cooper County Sheriff's Office and the Boonville Police Department denied any on-going investigations. A letter from a fellow employee of Charter Hospital in Columbia, Jeff Westbrook, claims that Howard worked as a counselor at the teen facility in 1985. He is accused of similar flirtatious behavior with teens during his time at Charter Hospital.

SNAP says the church should warn their congregations of these "predator priests" in the area.

Officials from the Diocese of Jefferson City say they care deeply about victims of abuse, but are doing all they can.

"We do feel an obligation to these victims, but it's impossible to keep track of every single retired priest, especially those who aren't from our diocese," said Ron Vessel of the church.

For the full text of the letter and forms about Rev. Roberts move to Missouri, click the links to the left.


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