Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
October 26, 2010
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
We're with a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAPnetwork.org).
This hard-won victory over secretive Catholic officials helps protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded. It's proof of two important lessons, one discouraging, the other encouraging.
The discouraging lesson is that when it comes to child sex crimes and cover ups, little is changing in the Catholic hierarchy. Despite pledges of 'openness,' bishops are still obsessed with hiding the truth.
For three years, Bishop Brom and his high priced lawyers succeeded in keeping these records hidden. Even now, Brom is still keeping what are likely the most shocking documents hidden. The public now is getting only about 80% of the records that were promised in the settlement.
It took three years to win the release of these long-secret records: because church-funded defense lawyers fought tooth and nail to keep these documents hidden. Brom is paying the lawyers who are blocking disclosure.
Bishop Brom will claim otherwise. "It's the individual predator priests, not me," he'll say, "that want to keep these records hidden. It's their lawyers, not mine, who want secrecy." But that's a ruse. He's paying for those lawyers.
"But even predators have the right to lawyers," Brom will say. They don't, however, have the right to church-paid lawyers, paid for by generous but unwitting Catholic moms and dads.
If these predators were in legal hot water because they were arrested at pro-choice demonstrations, Brom would tell them "You acted in immorally by promoting abortion. Get your own lawyer."
If these predators were in legal hot water because they were arrested protesting for tougher immigration laws, Brom would tell them "You acted in immorally by violating church policy. Get your own lawyer."
Brom's duplicitious strategy – acting like he wants openness while paying lawyers to preserve secrecy – amounts to "good cop, bad cop." He pretends he has no choice. But he's being disingenuous. He should make predator priest pay their own lawyers, and forbid those predators from hiding the truth and concealing these records.
The bottom line is that while promising openness in public, bishops continue to preserve secrecy in private. They talk about "transparency" but keep practicing secrecy.
But here's the encouraging lesson here. It's a lesson for anyone who ignores or conceals child sex crimes. In the words of Martin Luther King: "No lie lives forever." If you hide the truth about predators, eventually, it will surface, and your reputation and standing and moral authority will suffer. This is true whether you are a public figure or private one, whether you are a PhD or a high school drop out, whether you are a high school principal or a summer camp director. Your deceit and recklessness and callousness about children's safety will eventually be exposed. Ultimately, few respect a person who sides with powerful and guilty adults over vulnerable and innocent kids.
So don't do it. Don't hide child sex crimes. Don't protect predators. Protect kids instead.
The excessive deference given for years to authority figures, especially bishops, is eroding. People are demanding that decision-makers do more to safeguard kids. And that starts with real openness, the openness that sometimes happens when victims, witnesses and whistleblowers call the independent professionals in law enforcement, not the biased, selfish amateurs in church headquarters.
So again, the lesson is: if you have any information – solid or speculative, recent or old, clearly important or seemingly insignificant – about those who harm the young, speak up, call police and protect kids. If you don't, eventually your irresponsible misdeeds will surface and haunt you.
We especially call on current and former Catholic church employees and members: if you know anything about child molesting clerics, please search your conscience, find some courage, and break your silence, so other children won't suffer the devastation that thousands of us have suffered and still suffer. Call the police now and tell them what you know.
Finally, what should happen now? Every current and former San Diego Catholic should ask their loved ones "Did any of these 48 child molesting clerics ever hurt you?" If so, the wounded should be begged to call police, get help, protect kids and start healing.
Every parent and parishioner has a moral duty to do this. Silence helps child predators. Silence endangers kids. Silence is wrong, especially silence about widespread, devastating child sex crimes and on-going cover ups.
So please – we beg you – Read these records. E mail the link to your relatives. Call your friends and tell them about these documents. And remind them of their civic duty to help police catch criminals. Remind them of their moral duty to help find and heal those who are suffering.
Two important "thank yous" bear mention.
First, we are very grateful to the 144 brave and persistent San Diego victims. They had the wisdom and compassion to insist on a commitment that these crucial records about predator priests and corrupt colleagues be disclosed. And they had the strength and persistence to fight for three years to make sure that commitment was honored, at least in part. Southern California is a safer place because of their courage and tenacity. All of us should be grateful to these wonderful but wounded men and women who are breaking the cycle of abuse and cover up.
Second, we are very grateful to their attorneys, especially Irwin Zalkin and Tony Demarco. They too helped make sure no settlement happened without a pledge of openness. They too worked tirelessly to make sure that pledge was honored. They heard, honored and helped the men and women they represent, when those men and women said, over and over, "We want everyone to know who the wrong-doers are," and "We want kids to be safer," and "We want the truth to be told." These attorneys understood that, in the short term, victims need the emotional validation that a settlement needs and the financial help that a settlement brings. But they also understood that, in the long term, victims need to know they've helped stop abuse by exposing child molesting clerics and their complicit church colleagues. So these attorneys battled relentlessly to meet the short and long term needs of these deeply-wounded victims. Again, all San Diego citizens, especially Catholics and citizens, should be grateful to these men.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around for 22 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
CONTACT - David Clohessy (314 566 9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312 399 4747 cell, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Paul Livingston (619 677 7133, firstname.lastname@example.org), Gabrielle Azzaro (760 721 7577, email@example.com)
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