Tuesday, November 24, 2009

SNAP Leaders Respond to Latest Findings of the John Jay Study on Predator Priests


Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP outreach director:

Now that the obvious has been re-affirmed (that pedophile priests molest girls and boys), let’s hope researchers start to focus on the real question: why do thousands of current and former church employees stay silent about clergy sex crimes and cover ups? That’s what really needs to be addressed.

We have serious doubts about the John Jay project but this conclusion – that the sexual orientation of child molesting clerics isn’t significant – doesn’t surprise us. Roughly half of our 9,000 members are women who were molested as girls by priests, brothers, nuns, bishops and seminarians. We’ve long seen that courts and media tend to minimize the harm done to females who are assaulted by clergy.

Statement by Barbara Blaine, SNAP founder and president:

The gender orientation of predator priests is irrelevant. What matters, though, is the church's deeply-rooted culture of sexual secrecy that stems from most priests' forbidden sexual activity.

When all sex by priests is wrong – dating, masturbation, porn, everything – then most priests will have sexual secrets. And they will be very reluctant to ‘rat out’ their brother priests who are known or suspected pedophiles.

Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director:

Since 2004, when John Jay College began tabulating numbers for the American bishops on priests that have committed sex crimes against children, nearly 1,000 newly identified priests have been reported to dioceses around the country as child molesters, averaging nearly 200 per year. In fact, last year a record number of priests were reported to have molested children, a staggering 311 newly identified priest offenders. The grand total of priests who have assaulted children in the United States over the past several decades is now nearing a staggering total of 6,000.

The John Jay “study” studies the wrong thing. The real issue has never been only about pedophile priests. It’s complicit church officials. That’s what Catholics and citizens need and deserve to know: why did thousands and thousands of cardinals, bishops, priests, nuns and other church employees ignore or conceal horrific child sex crimes by thousands of clerics? Have those church staff changed their behavior? We don’t know because bishops want everyone but themselves studied and blamed for their massive, historic and on-going refusal to protect children.

Brand new cases are still demonstrating the alarming pattern of bishops putting proven, admitted or credibly accused child molesting clerics back into ministry, the most serious betrayal of the Dallas Charter imaginable.

Just last month, for example, a New Jersey newspaper found out that a convicted predator priest had been quietly re-assigned to a hospital. (Neither the public, parishioners nor hospital staff had been warned.) After media inquiries, the hospital insisted that the priest be removed. (Remarkably, Newark Archbishop John Myers is now “re-considering” the cleric’s next assignment. See here.)

It also happened earlier this year in St. Louis, with Fr. Michael Freymuth. He was suspended a second time after news reports revealed he had been quietly reassigned with little or no public notice or warning.

And just three years ago in Fresno CA, Fr. Eric Swearingen was put back into parish ministry even after a jury found him guilty of child sex abuse in a civil trial.

Yet, none of the bishops who have been caught breaking their promises to the Catholic people are being censored, disciplined or fired for this behavior this week in Baltimore. Instead, they sit comfortably hearing a report about how an uptick in “divorce” rates and “drug” use in society at large somehow made priests go molest children in record numbers across the United States.

Everyone finally agrees, even the John Jay staff, that most victims take decades to come forward. That’s unlikely to change much. So of those who were raped or sodomized by priests, nuns bishops and seminarians in the 1980s and 1990s are likely still trapped in shame, silence, self-blame and confusion. Therefore, let’s avoid self-serving, dangerous assumptions that somehow the rate of predator priests is magically declining. Let’s be vigilant, not complacent.

The prudent approach, with the continuing large and alarming numbers of identified priest molesters, is also the moral approach. It’s to be careful, not complacent.

It’s simply irresponsible to ignore history, psychology and common sense. It’s wrong to use inadequate data to jeopardize the safety of kids.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. The group was established in 1988 and has more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in its title, SNAP has members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. For more information visit the SNAP website or call David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688).

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