Guest Blog: SNAP Update: Where Is the Transparency?

Hamilton and Griffin on Rights
April 7, 2015

“Openness and transparency.” Apparently, the public relations professionals who advise Catholic officials have insisted that this is the winning phrase, the mantra that if repeated relentlessly, will restore the laity’s trust in the church hierarchy, the trust that’s been violated time and time again by the church’s on-going clergy child sex abuse and cover up crisis.

For decades now, when clergy sex crimes and cover ups are uncovered, bishops and others in the church hierarchy respond by pledging to turn over a new leaf and to start dealing with such reports with “openness and transparency.”

The phrase is found often in official written church abuse policies. And it’s used by church officials in interview after interview after interview. (Sometimes, members of the Catholic hierarchy go so far as to claim they’re now the ‘best’ institution when dealing with abuse cases.)

This promise, however, seem mostly to be honored in the breach. Consider these recent cases:

–For a full year, Mobile Alabama Archbishop Thomas Rodi hid allegations that Fr. Johnny S. Savoie was accused of molesting a youngster. The allegations only surfaced because of separate civil lawsuits charging parochial school staff with tolerating bullying.

Now, Rodi is going even farther and using parishioner donations to pay lawyers to try to keep a continued lid on the child sex allegations.

Our statement is here.

Links to coverage are here.

–For 11 months, Omaha Nebraska Archbishop George Lucas hid a child sex abuse allegation against a priest. When he finally did disclose this information, he did it on Halloween in the evening, knowing full well that this would ensure the least amount of public attention.

Our statement is here.

Links to coverage are here.

–For at least eight years, Tampa Florida Bishop Robert Lynch and Salesian officials kept silent about credible child sex abuse allegations and at least one settlement involving Fr. Innocente Clementi. (The accused cleric had never been “outed” until we did a news conference a few weeks ago.)

Our statement is here.

Links to coverage are here.

Yet Catholic officials, as they have done for decades, apparently told no one about these credible allegations against Fr. Clementi.

–Just three months ago, a civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuit was filed against Fr. Gregory Yacyshyn and his Rockville Centre diocesan supervisors. The suit charges that the priest molested a then-eight year old girl in 2003. Her family reported the abuse to the diocese but at no point did church officials disclose the accusation to parishioners or the public.

Details of the story are here.

The complaint against the Diocese is here.

–Last year, Fr. Gary A. Zalenski – who faces allegations of molesting at least two children – was defrocked. Steubenville Ohio Bishop Jeffrey Montforton kept that fact hidden for more than a month and even now refuses to say why Zalenski was ousted from the priesthood. (The bishop’s silence is likely one reason Zalenski has landed a position teaching at a local community college.)

Our statement is here.

Links to coverage are here.

–In 2011, Fr. James Tierney of Kansas City Missouri was kept on the job in a parish for nine months after the first child sex suit was filed against him (Sept. 2010) and four months after the second child sex suit, involving a second child, was filed against him (February 2011). He was finally suspended after salacious allegations against another Kansas City priest, Fr. Shawn Ratigan, began to attract national attention.

Our statement is here.

Links to coverage are here.

Lest you think it’s just in the smaller dioceses where bishops continue to conceal abuse, consider:

Chicago, Illinois

In 2005, Gail Peloquin Howard reported to church officials that, as a teenager, she was abused by Msgr. John D. Fitzgerald in Chicago. But Cardinal Francis George refused to publicly acknowledge this even though his experienced, hand-picked abuse liaison Leah McCluskey (who has dealt with hundreds of victims) told Howard that her report was “credible.” Last year, after a SNAP news conference, a parish priest revealed Howard’s allegation. The archdiocese still refuses to do so.

Our statement is here.

Links to coverage are here.

St. Paul, Minnesota

Twin Cities Archbishop John Neinstedt (and his predecessors) hid accusations against Fr. Robert P. Clark for at least 14 years, against Fr. John Owens for at least nine years, and against Fr. Donald Drummer for at least eight years. Among just those three clerics, that’s 31 years of secrecy, recklessness and callousness.

New York City

In January, credible child sex allegations against an archdiocesan priest publicly surfaced only because a concerned Catholic parishioner sent a letter about those serious accusations to a local newspaper. Cardinal Tim Dolan refused to tell the public about Fr. Peter Kihm even though he suspended Kihm from Good Shepherd parish in Rhinebeck.

(In fact, one veteran researcher estimates that there are roughly 700 proven, admitted or credibly accused clerics whose identities remain hidden by Dolan’s archdiocese alone.)

We could cite dozens and dozens of other examples proving that the self-serving secrecy that caused the church’s global abuse and cover up crisis remains in force. Despite repeated pledges, over years, to “reform,” Catholic officials continue to put their comfort and reputations above the safety of kids and the healing of victims.

Why is “transparency” important? Why should officials promptly and fully disclose child sex abuse allegations?

Because parents can better protect their kids if they know who and where the predators are.

Because police and prosecutors can better do their jobs if they have this information.

Because every day a proven, admitted or credibly accused child molester’s name stays hidden, he can destroy evidence, intimidate victims, threaten witnesses, discredit whistleblowers, fabricate alibis, and flee elsewhere. Every day this information stays hidden, the chances increase that statute of limitations.

Because many victims are still suffering in shame, silence and self-blame, and will only find the courage to speak up, expose predators, protect kids and start healing IF they’re prodded to do so by authority figures.

Because even if victims stay silent, their pain is often relieved when their predators are exposed.

Because this is what will make the church, and our society, safer: when the identities and whereabouts of dangerous and potentially dangerous predators are revealed.

Because this is what Catholic officials have repeatedly pledged to do: be “open” about clergy sex cases.

And consider this: In the US, the abuse and cover up crisis first caused national headlines 30 years ago. Now, 6,300 US priests are publicly accused of abuse, and thousands of civil suits have been filed and settled. If bishops here in the US are behaving like this, still protecting predators, endangering kids and keeping secrets, imagine what their colleagues in the developing world are doing.








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