|New OK City Bishop Named; Sex Abuse Victims Respond
December 16, 2010
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Beltran has handled clergy sex abuse and cover up cases with anything but openness and compassion. So we’re glad he’s stepping down.
At the same time, however, we caution Oklahoma Catholics against becoming complacent. Complacency protects no one. Only vigilance protects kids. And given the belated, begrudging and often ignored “reforms” adopted by the church hierarchy on child sex abuse, vigilance is certainly appropriate.
We know little about the new archbishop but we hope he will do more to reach out to others hurt by Fr. Thomas Benke, who worked in the Oklahoma City archdiocese for at least eight years and molested several boys.
In October 2009, a $4.65 million settlement was announced involving lawsuits by six men who were abused as boys by Behnke. Although most of them were abused at a parochial school in Dallas, some of the abuse took place while Behnke worked in Oklahoma City at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Therese, (popularly known as "Little Flower Catholic Church) at 1125 S. Walker Ave.
From 1954-1955 and again from 1969-1974, Behnke lived and worked at Little Flower. He also staffed the mission of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 2123 SW 11th Street (Packingtown), Oklahoma City. In addition, for two years (1966-1968), he worked at Holy Rosary parish in Hartshorne, now part of the diocese of Tulsa.
We strongly suspect that there are others who are still suffering in shame, isolation and self blame because of Behnke’s crimes. If Bishop Coakley uses his considerable resources to aggressively seek them out and console them, it could make a real difference.
Until a SNAP news conference in August of this year, Behnke’s crimes and tenure in Oklahoma have never been publicly disclosed by Oklahoma City church officials.
At that time, SNAP challenged Beltran to publicly apologize for and explain his silence, and to seek out others hurt by Behnke who may still be “suffering in shame, silence and self blame.” Specifically, SNAP asked that Beltran use church websites, parish bulletins, local pulpits, and his archdiocesan newspaper and website to publicize Behnke’s crimes. Beltran ever responded.
Four years before being sent to Dallas, Behnke spent five years working at Little Flower in Oklahoma City. While at Little Flower is also allegedly abused at least one child although it’s not clear where the victims lived.
Behnke belongs to an Oklahoma City-based religious order called the Discalced Carmelite Friars (405-235-2037), which was one of the two defendants in civil lawsuits. (The other was the Dallas Catholic diocese.) Behnke died in 2008 at age 86.
(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, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, email@example.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
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