A message from SNAPDFW’s facilitator, Lisa Kendzior
Acknowledge your courage
It takes courage to acknowledge that we’ve been abused and it is not easy to even admit it to ourselves. Just browsing this website is a big step.
Know that you are not alone!
If you’ve been victimized by clergy, please know that you are not alone. You can get better. You can reach out to others who’ve been hurt just like you have.
Together, we can heal one another.
"This month, it was the Leadership Conference of Women Religious that bishops were concerned about. Before that, it was Catholic Charities in the United States. Then it was Caritas, the church's umbrella organization for the coordination of international charity. And now it is the Girl Scouts." -- Joan Chittister
Joan Chittister is a well-known and outspoken Benedictine nun in the Roman church in America. In her column 'From Where I Stand' published May 16 on the National Catholic Reporter website, Joan speaks up loudly about the preposterous and apparently random gyrations of the all-male Catholic hierarchy caste, asking the following key question:
Where has all this energy for empirical destruction come from in a church now projecting its own serious problems with sexual issues onto everything that moves?
In the powerful article, Chittister says that each of the groups attacked has been "curtailed, 'investigated' or put in some kind of canonical receivership because of their reputed lack of orthodoxy on sexual issues or because of association with other groups that, according to the bishops, have the same problem. And all of that in the face of the sex abuse debacle of the church itself, still to be resolved, never monitored, and totally closed to outside investigation."
The article also briefly reviews a new book: Pius XII: The Hound of Hitler by noted historian Gerard Noel. Noel traces the rise to power of Eugenio Pacelli (a.k.a. Pius XII) whose goal became the centralization of the church, and the control of all its organizations. "Under Pacelli, law became the power of the church; the Gospel, its victim."
Chittister goes on:
"For the first time in history, the Vatican took sole control of episcopal appointments, extended "infallibility" to "definitive" statements like encyclicals and gave the pope the right to declare on universal issues without the advice and consent of episcopal conferences, synods or councils. It was a recipe for monarchical control. And it worked.
"Now, as a result, bishops are cut out of common cloth. They are chosen to be what the Vatican wants rather than what the culture or the people need. They are an arm of the Vatican rather than the voice of the flock in dialogue with the Vatican."
Read the full article in the National Catholic Reporter of 16 May 2012:
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Read the story from the Philadelphia Inquirer ...
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In the statement, Pesha said that "after much thought and consultation" Carlson had decided to restructure the archdiocese's legal representation, pointing out that "a number of dioceses throughout the country follow this similar structure."
Read more in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ...
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The BBC's This World program reports that as late as 2010 Brady had the names and addresses of those being abused by Brendan Smyth, "Ireland's most prolific pedophile," but did nothing about it, and did not ensure their safety.
Read the full story in the BBC News ...
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"Given the known scope of the abuse in the California dioceses, it is nearly unfathomable that, even now, the California bishops are lobbying against modest extensions of the statute of limitations and meaningful background investigations for those working closely with children on a regular basis" -- Victims advocate, attorney Marci Hamilton
Read full article: 'Catholic bishops lobby against legislation to protect children new=true'
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Robert Finn, religious superior of the Kansas City - St. Joseph diocese of the Roman church, will be compelled to face a jury of his peers to plead absolution from the criminal charges which he denies.
With the decision in the Missouri court Thursday, Finn becomes the first Roman hierarch to face criminal charges in the decades old Roman Catholic priest sexual abuse crisis.
- Judge orders Kansas City bishop to stand trial in abuse case
- Judge John Torrence's order
- KC bishop charged with failure to report child abuse
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In a case that represents a shift toward holding the Catholic Church hierarchy legally accountable for failing to warn parents or police about abusive priests, and under 5 years of county prosecutor supervision, the church that refuses women ministerial leadership roles, has accepted their court-watched leadership to avoid further prosecution, and is allowing the women to plan the protection of the diocese's innocents from abusive and pedophile priests.
The womens' plan, in its simple essence, is this.
When abuse is suspected,
1. Call the police;
2. Call an abuse hotline;
3. Call the church -- IN THAT ORDER.
"The diocese’s model for responding to abuse concerns has changed fundamentally. The initial response has been taken out of the hands of clergy" -- Carrie Cooper, leader of child protection efforts for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.
We would suggest one change in the plan for our site's visitors and readers: if your own diocese is not under court insistence to comply, AND under leadership other than clergy, then the plan should be this:
- Call the police;
- Call an abuse hotline - period.
The Roman Catholic Church in the United States has, for over ten years, ignored SNAP's insistence that they do precisely that.
Now, out of one hand,
- The KC diocese lawyers attack SNAP -- with obvious approval from the USCCB;
- under criminal indictment, secular court supervision, and the leadership of women, the diocese starts protecting its children.
The result of this secular enforcement finally begins to put some parishioner donations -- and the actual protection of the innocent -- where only their priests', bishops' and pope's mouths have been in the past.
- Read the lead story in the Kansas City Star:
- Read the Associated Press story:
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In the book’s most striking accusation, one of the authors, José Barba, who holds a doctorate from Harvard in Latin American studies, writes that in 2001 Joseph Ratzinger (today, a.k.a. Benedict XVI) and his chief canon lawyer Tarcisio Bertone (a high ranking member of the Roman Curia) modified the statute of limitations in church law regarding sex with minors retroactively in favor of the rapist priest and the order's founder Marcial Marciel, outrageously violating the human rights and legitimate interests of his victims.
- Read the Jason Berry article in the National Catholic Reporter:
'Ratzinger altered canon law to soften Maciel punishment, book argues' ...
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The documentation has been compiled in a book "La voluntad de no saber" ("The will to not know"), which is co-authored by Jose Barba, a former Legion priest who along with other priests in 1998 brought a church trial against the Legion's founder, the Rev. Marciel Maciel, for having sexually abused them while they were seminarians.
"The importance of this book is that it documents the irrefutable evidence and proof that the Vatican has been lying about Maciel," said Bernardo Barranco, an expert from the Religious Studies Center of Mexico and author of the prologue of the new text.
- Read: Washington Post article 'Pope Mexico trip clouded by documents that show Vatican knew of Legion founder’s abuse'
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The bank of the Roman Catholic Church has been trying to clean up its image after 30 million dollars of its assets were frozen at the end of 2010 in a money laundering investigation.
The pope immediately issued a "motu proprio" - in effect, an executive order -- creating an internal mechanism in an effort to satisfy the international banking community over transparency issues related to fraud and money laundering. JP Morgan's current move seems to indicate that that effort to save papal face has not been very successful.
The public image of the Holy See's bank has also been harmed by the so-called "Vatileaks" scandal, in which highly sensitive documents, including letters to the pope, were published in Italian media.
Some of the leaked documents appear to show a conflict among top Vatican officials about just how transparent the bank should be in dealings that took place before it enacted its new laws.
Once again, the Roman Church hierarchy shows its true colors, valuing its cash over the protection of children. But even in that case, the 'sacred' subterfuge and silencing speaks volumes.
- Read the Huffington Post article: Vatican Bank Account Closed At JP Morgan, Image May Be Hurt
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Sources for the newspaper said that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.
Sources told Dutch news that surgical removal of testicles was regarded ... as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse...
-- The Telegraph, 19 Mar 2012.
The castration was also reported to an official inquiry into abuse within the Catholic Church by a family friend who knew Mr Heithuis in the 1950s. But the report, and the evidence with it, were ignored in the final report.
Dutch officials will call for a parliamentary investigation.
- Read The Telegraph article: Dutch Roman Catholic Church 'castrated at least 10 boys' ...
- Read The Huffington Post article: Dutch Roman Catholic Church Castrated Boys As 'Treatment' For Homosexuality ...
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The court threw out the complaint, saying that Missouri law does not allow it because judging the supervision of the priest would require inquiry into religious doctrine, which it contends would violate the First Amendment.
Let's repeat the core of that: the Missouri court said:
The Supreme Court will have an opportunity on Friday to reverse that decision. Let's hope the high court does precisely that.
"This bizarre conclusion would grant churches a special exemption from neutral, generally applicable laws designed to protect children. The United States Supreme Court now has an opportunity to reverse this erroneous interpretation of the Constitution." -- NY Times Editorial, 14 Mar 2012
The question to be presented to the Supreme Court on Friday will be this:
Does the First Amendment shield religious organizations from accountability for negligence and negligent supervision and retention of their employees who sexually abuse children?
Read: Clerical Abusers and the First Amendment in yesterday's NYTimes ...
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"The group, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, is neither a plaintiff nor a defendant in the litigation. But the group has been subpoenaed five times in recent months in Kansas City and St. Louis, and its national director, David Clohessy, was questioned by a battery of lawyers for more than six hours this year. ...
The network and its allies say the legal action is part of a campaign by the church to cripple an organization that has been the most visible defender of victims ..."
-- New York Times, 12 March 2012
“If there is one group that the higher-ups, the bishops, would like to see silenced it definitely would be SNAP. And that’s what they’re going after. They’re trying to find a way to silence SNAP.”
-- Marci A. Hamilton, law professor,Yeshiva University; advocate for victims of clergy sex crimes
Read the article: Church Puts Legal Pressure on Abuse Victims’ Group in today's NYTimes ...
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This reaction is to having been currently listed by the US State Department as a nation "of concern" for potential money laundering activities.
The Vatican Bank, founded in 1942 by Pope Pius XII, has been in the spotlight since September 2010 when Italian investigators froze 23 million euros ($33 million) in funds in Italian banks, including the Vatican bank, after opening an investigation into possible money-laundering.
The pope was quick to react, a mere one month later, with a 'Motu Proprio' -- amounting to a papal executive order -- to make the Vatican bank's internal activities transparent under international banking standards.
As we've pointed out here in the past, no such parallel executive order for transparency has ever been forthcoming from the pope or the Vatican concerning the Roman Catholic priest sexual abuse crisis.
In fact, for 14 consecutive years, the Vatican has ignored a United Nations request to member nations for information concerning its handling of child endangerment issues.
The pope has demonstrated, in action not words, that when Vatican assets are at stake, he is willing, even anxious, to act quickly, decisively, pragmatically and emphatically. Not so, apparently, when the safety of children is at stake.
As the recent history of the Roman Catholic hierarchy shows, since, at least, 2002 -- with the emergence of world attention on the Boston priest sexual abuse scandal -- the pope's demonstrated willingness to issue executive orders for transparency in accordance with international child abuse standards seems considerably less important than his willingness to comply with international banking standards of transparency to retrieve frozen Vatican funds.
- Read the full Reuter's story: Vatican Makes Money Laundering List Of U.S. State Department ...
- Read about the Vatican's instant compliance with the banking community's demand for transparency ...
- Read: 'Vatican enacts new banking laws' in the Irish Times ...
- Read: Vatican ingnores UN request on Rights of the Child
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In an email to NCR, Clohessy said the contents of the transcript, made public Friday, show “that Catholic officials want the names and emails of people who turn to SNAP for help.”
“Church officials claim they don’t want the names of victims, witnesses or whistleblowers. But they’re desperately trying to gut the law that most enables us to protect victims, witnesses or whistleblowers,” wrote Clohessy, referring to a Missouri law that protects the confidentiality of rape crisis centers. “So it’s clear they aren’t being honest.”
Read the story in the National Catholic Reporter ...
Read the full 215 page transcript of Clohessy's deposition ...
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In 2002, America was still reeling from 9/11. The Roman Catholic Church in the United States was beginning to reel from the news coming from Boston that priests had raped children and that their bishops had protected them and allowed them to rape again. And the Vatican was marginalizing the priest sex abuse crisis as "an American problem."
During that same year, a former Catholic priest and still devout Roman Catholic wrote a small book entitled Toward a New Catholic Church (James Carroll. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002).
Never the alarmist, always the realist, Carroll challenged all believers of any faith, but particularly those in his own church, to "think critically about what we believe" before it is, literally, too late. Have we? Have I? Have you?
The truth is that it is no less a necessity to deeply consider what we believe today. For as always, what we believe determines what we will sanction.
In 2012, just this morning, an item in the UK publication The Guardian contains the headline, Iran to announce 'major nuclear progress.'
In 2002, James Carroll wrote:
As demonstrated by the world's move to the brink of nuclear war between Pakistan and India in the spring of 2002 in a dispute that defined itself religiously, nothing less than the future of the human race is at stake in our readiness to think critically about what we believe.
Here at SNAPDFW, a small group of survivors of abuse by those with rank and spiritual authority -- priest, nun, religious, minister, deacon, teacher, doctor, therapist -- come together monthly and struggle to make sense out of a church home, a family, a helping relationship that has been wrenched violently from them by abuse -- a Church, or other environment, formerly their safest place to be, but one that now protects the perpetrators and itself instead of its victims. Legally cornered to be accountable, the former "safe place" strikes back with vengeance and vilifies -- and all in the name of the God that it teaches the world to fear.
To this day -- 10 years after the Boston abuse revelations -- the Catholic church continues to insult and ignore its victims. A recent gathering of bishops in the Vatican to discuss the sex abuse crisis, and even to listen for a few moments to the plight of one of them, did not include the bishop of Rome (also known as the pope). Nor did the bishop of Rome bother to even acknowledge the visiting survivors in his daily sermon and blessing, being dispensed to other visitors and dignitaries only a few blocks away.
In speaking of the 2002 Boston sex scandal in the Roman church in America, James Carroll spoke words that are unfortunately -- and for many victims who have not survived, quite tragically -- still valid today. Believers might use it as a primer for beginning, finally, to "think critically about what we believe."
It would be simplistic to attribute the moral paralysis that so long marked Church responses to priestly child abuse to any one characteristic of Catholic culture, be it:
But taken together, such notes of contemporary Catholic conflict are indications of the dysfunction that results when the gap between preached ideals and life as it is really lived becomes too wide -- especially if the ideals are false.
- the all-male priesthood,
- a Jansenist suspicion of sexuality that breeds repression,
- a male fear of females,
- or the disparity between increasingly self-respecting homosexuals in the Catholic clergy and a Catholic moral theology that continues to preach contempt for homosexuality.
What we sanction is determined by what we believe. If it is time to stop sanctioning the abuse of innocents in our churches, perhaps it is time, too, to begin to "think critically about what we believe." For what we believe determines what we will sanction.
SNAPDFW invites all survivors of spiritual, emotional, physical and sexual abuse by anyone with rank and authority within "the helping professions" or within families or churches or anywhere else to come spend a few moments with others who can relate. You are welcome here, regardless of your religion or background. Abuse occurs in all religious traditions -- from the most orthodox to the most contemporary. Here you will be welcomed. You will not be judged. And you will not be abused.
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A Belgian Catholic Church spokesman said the offices in Hasselt, Mechelen and Antwerp cooperated during the raids and handed over files.
AP reports that a judicial official close to the investigation, who asked not to be identified, said today's surprise raids were based on some 200 witness accounts and 87 civil claims and sought to reveal if high-level clergy were involved in keeping abuse covered up.
Read more in the Fort Wort Star-Telegram here: Belgian authorities raid 3 bishops' offices
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I serve on the Child and Youth Committee and have listened to and read many hours of excruciatingly painful testimony from victims and their families describing the most heinous sexual abuse imaginable. The institutional cover-ups and subsequent ill-treatment of victims have made these terrible situations even worse. It’s a sad day, indeed, when concern for institutional risk management trumps uncovering the truth.
It’s not going to be easy. But, it is up to me and to all elected state officials, regardless of their affiliations, to act with integrity, strength, and righteousness — right now.
It’s time to open the window.
- First, we in state government must encourage — not suppress — the public conversation about the sexual abuse of children.
- Second, state legislators must act to expand the current statute of limitations for child sex abuse.
I recently listened to testimony concerning two perpetrators who were Franciscan Friars and who taught at Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia when I was on the faculty there. As a life-long Catholic, a former parochial school teacher, and a religious education instructor, I am filled with anguish over these incidents.
I am also a proud Penn State alumnus and I still teach at the PSU Abington campus. I believe that Penn State is a jewel in the crown of our great commonwealth. Thus, everything I’ve learned about the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the devastation it has wrought pains me to the core...
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One more year has elapsed. And the Vatican, so quick to become "transparent" in order to get its assets back, still ignores a request to be transparent about its handling of child abuse -- and this time, for the 14th consecutive year.
Today, Kristine Ward of our sister organization the National Survivors Advocacy Coalition (NSAC) has written an editorial on this unconscionable papal negligence titled Yet Another Deadline Passes, Still No Report. Read that editorial below, then read the related links to articles on this website.
- NSAC Editorial: Yet Another Deadline Passes, Still No Report
- Vatican 13 years delinquent in submitting legally required UN report on 'Rights of the Child'
- SNAP petitions international court to investigate the pope and top Vatican officials for possible crimes against humanity
- Amnesty International human rights report lists Vatican for failure to protect children
- Vatican 2010 priorities: protect assets; ignore 'Rights of the Child'
- Moral bankruptcy of Roman hierarchy read into record of United Nations Human Rights Council
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"Sexual abuse of our children is the cancer that lives and walks among us, but a cancer survivor wears their ribbon proudly and we all stand to cheer as they walk by in their annual parade.
But who stands to cheer for the victim of a sexual assault?"
-- Dale Hansen, WFAA Dallas
It has been more than a month now since the sex scandal at Penn State stunned the Happy Valley and changed the lives of so many forever.
Former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky has said he's innocent of the charges he faces for sexually abusing so many young kids, but he stood silently by while the Penn State president, the athletic director and the legendary coach Joe Paterno lost their jobs in disgrace.
Is that really the action of an innocent man?
But then, they stood silently by while being told that Sandusky was abusing the children he says he was trying to help.
Nobody's innocent here, and those kids have lost their innocence forever because nobody talks about the abuse of a child.
The victim of a sexual crime is the only victim we don't talk about, and maybe it's time we do.
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Perry’s letter begins by saying: “I don’t know your name, but I know your face. I don’t know your journey, but I know where you are. I am your brother!”
Perry goes on to reveal personal details of his own sexual abuse as a child, and how his voice went unheard when he reached out for help to friends and family.
Perry writes, “The strength that it must have taken for your 11-year-old voice to speak out about such a horrible act is something that I didn’t have the strength or courage to do at your age.” The star calls the boy “my hero.”
The 40 current counts of sexual abuse against former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky listed in the grand jury indictment involved boys over a 15-year period who are adults now. Sandusky has maintained his innocence.
Read 'Tyler Perry Writes Open Letter to Alleged Penn State Victim' on the ABC News website ...
Read 'Tyler Perry's Open Letter to Penn State 11-Year-Old' ... on Newsweek's Daily Beast website ...
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