|Abuse-Victim Support Group Slams W.Va. Bishop
'Your Silence in This Matter Is Deafening,' SNAP Says after Priest Is Arrested in Reported '91 Roane Assault
By Kathryn Gregory
February 5, 2010
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Catholic Church officials in West Virginia should have informed their parishioners that a Cincinnati priest was accused of abusing a 10-year-old boy in Roane County, according to a support group for people abused by clergy.
However, church officials said West Virginia citizens did not need to be notified about the alleged abuse because the accused priest, the Rev. Robert F. Poandl, was never officially assigned to work in West Virginia.
Poandl, a priest of the Glenmary Home Missioners order, headquartered in Fairfield, Ohio, was indicted in January by a Roane County grand jury for allegedly sexually abusing a 10-year-old Cincinnati boy in 1991 at the Holy Redeemer Catholic parish rectory in Spencer, W.Va.
The Rev. Dan Dorsey, president of the Glenmary order, immediately notified law enforcement officials and Catholic authorities when the abuse was reported in June 2009.
But Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests advocates say officials in the Glenmary order and the Wheeling-Charleston diocese kept silent about the accusations for seven months, until Poandl was indicted, potentially putting other children at risk.
The diocese disagrees. "Because the priest was not assigned here, and he wasn't assigned here in 1991, and was never a pastor in parish or mission, we didn't communicate to parishes here what had happened," said diocesan spokesman Bryan Minor.
"Our opinion is Glenmary acted in full accordance with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops norm for protection of children and young adults," Minor said. "They were very transparent with the diocese and they informed us each step of the way."
Neither Glenmary nor the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has any record of Poandl's visit to West Virginia, Minor said.
"He was certainly never ordered here," Minor said.
In a letter to Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who heads the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, SNAP officials chided the diocese for being "secretive" about the alleged abuse.
"Being victims ourselves of clergy abuse, we contend that Catholic staff in all three dioceses should have disclosed the allegations months ago, instead of keeping quiet, and therefore putting more kids at risk of being abused," according to the letter.
"Secrecy and the time it buys gives perpetrators opportunity to intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, destroy evidence and fabricate alibis," the letter states. "We feel the church hierarchy's silence also violates the national church sex abuse policy which allegedly mandates 'openness' in clergy sex cases.
"Your silence in this matter is deafening ..." the letter states.
The letter, which was written by three victims of clergy sex abuse, said the diocese had numerous opportunities to alert its flock about the alleged abuser on its Web site, in newspapers and parish bulletins, and encourage others who may have been abused, or knew about abuse, to contact local law enforcement. However, SNAP said the diocese failed to do so.
"Not only are these simple, inexpensive, proven steps that both help and heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable, it is your moral responsibility to do all you can - indeed more than the minimum - too keep kids safe," the letter states.
SNAP urged the bishop to "act in an affirmative manner to safeguard those at risk."
"You are the Bishop of the entire state of West Virginia, and the only person higher than you on the Catholic pecking order is the Pope himself," the letter states. "You are the one person whose actions, more than your words, can do the most to keep children safe. Please do not shirk this awesome responsibility."
Minor said that for the past five years in every issue of The Catholic Spirit, a biweekly newsletter sent to every registered home in the diocese, there is information on how to report alleged sexual abuse. There also is information on the diocese Web site, www.dwc.org, about how to report abuse.
In the next issue of The Catholic Spirit, which will be mailed next week, Minor said, there will a story and information regarding the Ponadl incident.
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