Friday, January 21, 2011

Victims' challenge
Victims challenge bragging by Boston archdiocese

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,

Yesterday, Cardinal O'Malley's spokeswoman bragged about the minimal and long-overdue abuse prevention steps finally taken by the archdiocese after decades of concealing horrific child sex crimes by almost 250 credibly accused child molesting clerics.

This is a good time to recall a 2003 report by a Massachusetts attorney general. His investigation found that archdiocesan leaders "acted with a misguided devotion to secrecy. And they failed to break their code of silence even when the magnitude of what had occurred would have alerted any reasonable, responsible manager that help was needed."

The AG wrote "The archdiocese must end the culture of secrecy that has protected the institution at the expense of children. The archdiocese must adopt a new spirit of openness when it comes to issues related to the protection of children. That includes ... communicating fully with pastors, parishioners, and the public concerning allegations of abuse against priests or church workers ..."

The archdiocese claims it communicates fully about allegations against active priests. But yesterday’s disclosure of 18 names of accused predator priests (whose victims the archdiocese has paid) proves that the archdiocese still conceals highly credible allegations against priests.

It's outrageous for O'Malley's spokeswoman to claim that “There is no organization in the Commonwealth that has done more in recent times to educate and empower children, parents and staff on the terrible and pervasive problem of sexual abuse in our society.”

It's more accurate for the archdiocese to admit that there is no organization in the Commonwealth that has done more for decades to endanger children.

And it’s more honest for the archdiocese to admit “All we do regarding child sexual abuse is what the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ policy requires all dioceses to do – nothing more.”

And “For at least five years, we didn’t even do this. Until very recently, for five years, we failed to meet even the vague, bare minimum standards that all of America’s bishops adopted in 2002.”

That would be more honest and accurate.

It’s simply irresponsible to try to whitewash and minimize the sordid past history and troubling current practices of the Boston church hierarchy regarding children’s safety.

Most agencies and organizations that deal with kids adopted child-safeguards and education efforts decades ago starting in the late 70s. Finally, in 2002, some Catholic officials started to catch up, but largely as a public relations and legal defense strategy.

Many of the steps the hierarchy has taken – in Boston and elsewhere – are deliberate moves to shift attention to clerics who commit crimes and away from bishops who conceal crimes.

And in recent years, the four dioceses in the Commonwealth have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to work to stop reforms of archaic, arbitrary, predator-friendly state laws. That speaks volumes about the real intentions of the Massachusetts Catholic hierarchy. While the rest of society works to make exposing child predators easier, top church officials work to keep such disclosures difficult.

Finally, for an institution to claim it's "Number 1" at anything implies it's done a thorough analysis of similar institutions. We challenge O'Malley and his staff to produce evidenced that they have carefully examined the child protection practices of dozens of Massachusetts organizations and found them to be inadequate compared with the Boston archdiocese.

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