Clergy Sex Abuse Victims Want National Church Panel to Act

Voice from the Desert
December 14, 2009

Bridgeport -- A support group for clergy sex abuse victims is asking a national Catholic lay panel to investigate the Bridgeport bishop for allegedly violating the church's national child sex policy.

Leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing the head of the National Review Board, a committee set up in 2002 by America's bishops to oversee the church's sex abuse and cover up scandal. SNAP wants the panel to find out why two priests remain in active ministry in the Bridgeport diocese despite $40,000 having been paid out to two men who say the clerics molested them. On Friday, the Connecticut Post reports that a third man is accusing of one of the two priests of molesting him too.

"The US bishops' sex abuse policy clearly says that, for the sake of children's safety, credibly accused predator priests are to be quickly suspended," said David Clohessy, national director of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "But that's obviously not happening under Bishop William Lori, so that means that Bridgeport kids are at risk."

Neither cleric faces pending civil or criminal charges, as best SNAP can determine.

"But each cleric has two accusers, the accusers were quickly and quietly paid off, Lori's not claiming the priests are innocent - all this strongly suggests these are credible allegations," said Clohessy.

On Friday, Lori's public relations team sent out a statement saying the diocese doesn't find the accusers credible.

"Then why did Lori quickly and quietly pay them $40,000?" asked Clohessy.

The National Review Board is headed by Diane M. Knight of Milwaukee. Its members, who are appointed by bishops, can be found at

"Bishops initially heralded this board as 'watch dog' but it's actually become a 'lap dog.' Still, Lori's clearly endangering kids so we hope that his recklessness will prompt the panel to take action," said Barbara Dorris, SNAP's outreach director. "It's hard to imagine how a committee of lay Catholics could stay silent in a troubling and potentially risky situation like this."

Roughly 12,000 pages of long-secret Bridgeport diocesan records about clergy sex crimes and cover ups were released under court order on Tuesday. That same day, Catholic officials went to court to keep another 1,488 documents about predator priests hidden from public view:

(In a separate case, Lori is trying to keep hidden 126 boxes of church records about eight accused predator priests at a parish in Trumbull CT.)

Last week, SNAP and a Boston-based research group called, wrote to the newspapers which sued to get access to the 15,000 pages of records to keep pushing for the remaining 1,488 pages yet to be disclosed by Lori.

The week before that, clergy sex abuse victims and advocates prodded prosecutors to scour the newly-released church records and see if any of the church employees who ignored or concealed child sex crimes might still be prosecuted. They called on state and federal prosecutors to think creatively about ways to pursue current and former church workers who broke the law.

The organizations feel there's likely to be at least one priest, housekeeper, secretary or church lawyer who has destroyed evidence, obstructed justice, intimidated witnesses or committed some crime that's still able to be prosecuted. In some states, for instance, the statute of limitations is suspended when a predator moves out of state, like several Bridgeport predator priests have done.

A copy of SNAP's letter to the National Review Board, sent this morning by fax and email, is provided below:

December 14, 2009

Dear Ms. Knight:

We are writing you today to express our concern that two Bridgeport priests – Msgr. William Genuario and Monsignor Frank Wissel- are still active in ministry, even after two allegations against each have been brought to the attention of the Diocese of Bridgeport. Given the fact the Genuario, who was the second highest ranking position in the diocese as vicar general, is a judge at tribunal court and considered "a priest in good standing," and Wissel remains a pastor today, we feel it is imperative that an independent investigator look into this dangerous situation.

Two men say they were victimized by Genuario and Wissel. Both were quietly paid settlements totaling $40,000, according to last Thursday's Hartford Courant. Another man says he was also victimized by Genuario, according to last Friday's the Connecticut Post.

Because of the number of accusers and the quick and quiet payouts made, we feel these allegations have to be considered credible. Regardless, it's clear that Bishop William Lori hasn't been "open and transparent" as the US bishops sex abuse policy requires. Nor has he suspended them, as the policy requires, while conducting a more thorough investigation.

The bishops promised after the 2002 Dallas conference that "one strike and you are out." These priests have at least two strikes against them and are still active priests.

The culture of secrecy and recklessness around child molestation in the church is long-standing and deeply rooted. It won't be reversed by words alone.

Please urge Bishop Lori to

–immediately, for the safety of kids, suspend the two clerics, and

- personally visit every parish where Genuario and Wissel worked and remind parishioners that they have a moral and civil responsibility to report any knowledge of these horrific crimes to the police. Encourage the bishop to reach out to parishioners, both past and present, through the diocesan website and newspaper and church bulletins.

Please step in and appoint an independent team to not only look into the alleged crimes themselves but into how and why the accusations were kept secret and why these priests are being allowed to continue in ministry.

The role of the board, as defined on its website, is in part, to "Make appropriate recommendations to prevent sexual abuse of minors." Furthermore, in its early years, board members sometimes made effective use of their 'bully pulpits' to call attention to particularly egregious violations of the church's abuse policy.

We firmly believe that your panel has the ability and the obligation to do something other than remain silent in the face of this troubling situation.

We look forward to your reply.

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

314 862 7688


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