|Three Groups Push to Open Church Records
December 1, 2010
They want documents about clergy sex abuse disclosed
Three groups concerned about the Catholic church sex abuse crisis are petitioning California Supreme Court to make public thousands of pages of long-secret church documents about known and alleged predator priests.
The organizations include a Boston-based research group called BishopAccountability.org, a Dayton-based Catholic reform group called NSAC, the National Survivors Advocacy Coalition, and a Chicago-based self help group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In September, 25 alleged child sex abuse victims who sued the Santa Barbara-based Franciscan religious order won a court of appeals. The judges ruled in favor of releasing thousands of pages of long-secret church records about accused child molesting clerics. In 2006, the adults settled their civil cases, but only after insisting that the clerics’ personnel records be made public. Over the past four years, Franciscan officials have continued to fight in court against the disclosure.
Catholic officials have appealed the October decision to the state Supreme Court.
In amicus curiae letters filed yesterday with the court, the three groups essentially argue that the safety of children and the public’s right to know trump the privacy of accused clerics.
“When an adult assaults a child, he or she forfeits some of his or her rights. An individual’s privacy must be balanced against . . . preventing future child sex crimes and cover ups.” said SNAP’s letter.
“The public release of the Franciscan personnel files will lead to safer institutions and a society that does a better job of protecting children,” said Anne Barrett Doyle of BishopAccountability.org. “The public will not be served by a further delay in disclosure.”
“We ask you to consider the greater good in weighing the protection of the rights of individual abusers against. . . the protection of children,” said Kristine Ward of NSAC.
The accused clerics involved are: Samuel Cabot, Gus Krumm, Gary Pacheco, Robert van Handel, Mario Cimmarrusti, and David Johnson.
The victims in the case are represented by Santa Barbara attorney Timothy C. Hale of Nye, Peabody, Sterling and Hale, LLC (805 963 2345 office, 805 455 0319 cell).
A similar order was issued by a Los Angeles area judge in another clergy sex abuse and cover up case:
More information about the cases can be found at BishopAccountability.org
California Supreme Court
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102-4797
Re: John Doe 1 et al. v. Franciscan Friars of California, Inc., et al.
Docket No. B215775 (JCCP No. 4286)
Amicus letter against petition for review
To the California Supreme Court:
We are the world’s largest and oldest support group for clergy sex abuse victims. Our mission is to help heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
We are writing to urge you to uphold a recent court ruling that will help shed light on child sex abuse and cover up within a significant part of the Catholic church – a large religious order known as the Franciscans.
We applaud the judges who ruled in favor of openness (over secrecy) and took the side of many vulnerable children and wounded victims (instead of a few child molesting clerics). It’s crucial that long-secret records about child predators in the church, and those who enabled or hid their crimes, be opened for public scrutiny.
There are three basic reasons why such disclosure is beneficial: for the safety of vulnerable kids, for the healing of wounded adults and for the deterrence of future cover ups.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
First, few, if any, Franciscan predators are behind bars. And history, psychology, and common sense tell us that children area safest when child predators are locked up.
So since most or all Franciscan predators walk free, the more Catholics and citizens know about them, the safer children will be.
(Church officials will claim they “supervise” these child molesting clerics. We are highly skeptical of this claim. Time and time again over the past 20 years, we’ve seen such pledges made, and violated, by bishops and other top church staff. And even if one assumes the best of motivations, it’s extraordinarily hard for anyone to supervise another person 24/7, especially if the “supervisor” is trained in nominally helpful subjects like church history, church music, and church theology, and the “supervisee” is a smart, shrewd, and determined child sex offender.)
Second, it’s very hard for adults who were molested as kids to recover from their trauma when the truth remains hidden and when those who molested them, and those who enabled the crime, experience no penalties for their hurtful actions. Child abuse victims often desperately want some degree of healing and closure, yet are hounded by questions like “Why, even now, does nothing happen to my perpetrator and the church supervisor who knowingly put me and my siblings in harm’s way by sending a sexually troubled cleric to my parish?”
It’s hard then, to overstate the healing, validation and vindication that comes when deeply buried truth about horrific child sex crimes and cover ups eventually surface and when predators and accomplices who have escaped unscathed for decades are finally exposed publicly for who they really are and what they’ve really done.
Finally, as best we can tell, no current or former Franciscan employee has experienced any consequences for ignoring or concealing the crimes of these child sex offenders. Hence, the lesson they have learned is that there are no negative effects for one who hides or enables child sex crimes.
And the lesson we are sending to employers, supervisors and co-workers – both secular and religious – is that if they put their own comfort and careers above the safety of kids, and even essentially help child predators escape detection and prosecution, they’ll face no penalties at all, not even public exposure.
Is that the message we want to convey to school administrators, principals, coaches, day care center workers, and camp counselors?
Martin Luther King once said “No lie lives forever.” Sadly, however, that’s not the case with child sex crimes. Most child molesters do, in fact, avoid being caught. And most who passively turn a blind eye to known and suspected child sex crimes also avoid being caught.
California’s judicial system has an opportunity to at least partially remedy this reckless and callous injustice, by making public these crucial documents about abuse and cover up by a large, widely known and widely respected institution that has, for decades, put kids at risk and evaded any accountability.
Finally, we understand that some of the records deal with therapy records. And we certainly understand the widely-held, legitimate perception that such records will be kept private.
And we have seen, over and over again, where child molesting clerics have been sent to “therapy” as a ruse, a diversion, and an escape from prosecution. It’s clear that in many instances, known or suspected child sex offenders in the church were sent to “therapy” – often far away – to buy time, mollify angry parents and parishioners, evade law enforcement, and provide "cover" for child molesters and their complicit colleagues and supervisors. Under these deceptive circumstances and because of these self-serving motives, it’s disingenuous for criminals and their accomplices to claim such records are confidential.
But we also understand that when an adult assaults a child, he or she forfeits some of his or her rights. An individual’s privacy must be balanced against other, broader considerations, like preventing future child sex crimes and cover ups.
Thanks for your consideration
Executive Director, SNAP
Survivors Ne+twork of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790 cell
Outreach Coordinator, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
St. Louis MO 63130
314 862 7688, 314 503 0003
Brian P. Brosnahan
Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman
101 California Street, Suite 2050
San Francisco, CA 94111
Robert G. Howie, Esq.
Howie & Smith
1777 Borell Place, Suite 500
San Mateo, CA 94402
Tim Hale, Esq.
Nye, Peabody, Stirling, Hale & Miller LLP
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.