Victims Oppose Yakima Bishop’s Bid for National Office

November 10, 2016

The world’s largest group of clergy sex abuse victims wants Yakima’s top Catholic official to withdraw from his bid to head a national church abuse panel next week and instead focus on “protecting the vulnerable and healing the wounded” in Washington.


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is writing Bishop Joseph Tyson asking him to abandon his race for chair of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People. The election is Nov. 14 in Baltimore.

“You have done virtually nothing to undo the damage that your predecessor did when he protected clergy who abused children. You have also done virtually nothing, above the legally required bare minimum, to safeguard kids.” said,” SNAP in a letter sent today to Tyson ( It’s also signed by Robert Fontana, who founded the central Washington chapter of Voice of the Faithful.


Tyson’s opponent is Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette Indiana.

When Tyson took over the diocese in 2011, SNAP publicly expressed hopes that he would “take immediate steps to warn Mexican families and officials about Deacon Aaron Ramirez and tell the full truth about allegations against Fr. Darrell Mitchell.” The group says Tyson did neither.


Ramirez was accused of abuse of a 17 year old boy in 1999.


Mitchell was accused of having nude pictures of boys on his computer in 2003.


“As best we can tell, Tyson has ignored our pleas,” said Clohessy.

In 2014, SNAP criticized Tyson for quietly putting Mitchell, who had been suspended twice, back into parish work.


In 2012, SNAP warned Washington residents about a former Yakima lay minister and boys’ choir director, James Moritz, who was quietly accused of molesting two Yakima area brothers. As recently as 2008, Moritz was working at a parish in New York.


“In light of all of this – deceit, callousness, inaction – we feel Tyson shouldn’t even be running for this post,” said ___. “We hope he’ll reverse his decision, stay home, and focus first on safeguarding his flock rather than on padding his resume.”

With reservations, SNAP supports the election of Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville as the overall head of the bishops’ group. The victims “vigorously oppose” the election of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, who is the USCCB’s current vice-chair and is considered to be the front runner for the post.



“It’s not necessarily that we’re convinced Flores is much or even any better than his competitors,” explained Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “He may be a tad more amenable to reform that these other men, each of whom has clearly ignored or concealed clergy sex crimes.”

SNAP is also disappointed, that Flores – like most of his peers – refuses to post on church websites the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics.


But SNAP believes the other candidates are worse than Flores.

SNAP also “vehemently opposes” any position for Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, who has “used deceitful and mean-spirited tactics to block child sex abuse reforms in legislatures in Colorado and Pennsylvania.”

Besides DiNardo, Chaput, and Flores, the other nominees include: Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans, Archbishop Paul S. Coakley of Oklahoma City, Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, Archbishop Allen Vigneron of Detroit, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami and Archbishop John Wester of Santa Fe.

A copy of SNAP’s letter is below:

Bishop Tyson (

Next week, the USCCB will elect a new leader of the committee for the Protection of Children and Young People. That leader needs to be a bishop with a proven record of protecting children and youth. Bishop Tyson, you have no such record. You have done virtually nothing to undo the damage that your predecessor did when he protected clergy who abused children (see Diocese of Yakima, bishop You have also done virtually nothing, above the legally required bare minimum, to safeguard kids.

You could have persuaded survivors of sex abuse and their families and the public at large that you were committed to protecting children by:

1) listing the names of clergy and church ministers with credible allegations of abuse and their histories of ministry in the diocese on a diocesan website;

2) reaching out to and publicly thanking former church employees who were whistle-blowers about sex abuse, and forced out of their jobs for doing so;

3) removing from ministry any clerics who assisted the former bishop in protecting sexual predators;

4) exposing Fr. John Tholen as a sexual predator shortly after you had become the bishop of Yakima and had learned that he had abused two brothers from a very devout Catholic family in Yakima (see;

5) refusing to return Fr. Darell Mitchell to sacramental ministry when a diocesan investigation had determined that he had downloaded pictures of naked boys, photos which are illegal to possess, and that he had a pattern of giving gifts and having overnight stays with a teenage boy.

Bishop Tyson, you have not demonstrated that you put the safety of children and youth first, but rather you have chosen to protect the church and its offending clerics. Please remove your name as a candidate for the leadership position of the Bishop’s Committee for the Protection of Children and Youth. Please stay home and work harder to safeguard the vulnerable of your own diocese.

David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, 314 645 5915 home, )

Robert Fontana of Seattle (formerly of Yakima)








Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.