Wednesday, April 6, 2011

New name
Group blasts bishop for school’s new name

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,

There are thousands of devout Catholic lay people and saints and priests who never once ignored or concealed clergy sex crimes. Name the school after any of them. But not, as Pittsburgh’s Bishop Zubik is doing, after his predecessor, Archbishop Donald Wuerl (now of DC).

Why rub salt into already deep and still fresh wounds of suffering clergy sex abuse victims and disillusioned Catholics by naming it after Wuerl?

In Louisiana, one school, named after a Catholic bishop, had to be re-named when it was discovered that the bishop had molested kids.

That likely won't happen with Wuerl. But who knows what evidence may yet surface showing his complicity in clergy sex crimes and cover ups. (Remember, just last year damning evidence emerged from decades ago that the pope ignored and concealed crimes in his home diocese in Germany.)

Wuerl was a Pittsburgh Catholic official from 1988 to 2006 and a Wash DC church official from 2006 until now. Is there a single person who really believes Wuerl handled each and every clergy sex abuse and cover up case in those two dioceses perfectly?

Somewhere there’s a woman who was raped as a child by a Pittsburgh priest. She feels doubly betrayed because she was treated callously or deceptively by a Pittsburgh church official when she reported the crime to them. How will she feel when she learns that a school will be named in honor of Wuerl? She’ll feel betrayed a third time.

Why would Catholic officials take this risk? How can Zubik be so callous?

Consider just a few aspects of Wuerl’s track record on abuse:
--Just three months ago, we disclosed the names of three credibly accused predator priests who have worked in the DC area but whose identities as molesters had never been publicly disclosed here before. (Fr. Donald Joyce, Fr. Myron F. Bullock and Fr. Walter Dayton Salisbury.) We urged Wuerl to aggressively reach out to their victims. We are particularly worried about Salisbury because he has been convicted twice for molesting kids and was found in December living in public housing and serving on a local government board in Maine.

As best we can tell, Wuerl has done nothing to warn his flock about or reach out to other victims of these clerics.
--Roughly 24 US bishops have posted on their websites the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused predator priests. Wuerl didn’t do that in Pittsburgh. He’s not doing it in DC. He is, like most of his colleagues, opting for secrecy over openness and making it harder, not easier, for parents to protect their kids from child molesters.
--While in Pittsburgh, Wuerl opposed measures to safeguard Pennsylvania kids through new state laws that would have better enabled victims to expose child predators in court.

Wuerl, like Mahony and Dolan, is one of the most PR-savvy bishops in the world. But he has essentially been just as determined, and even more successful, than his peers in keeping child sex cases quiet.

During his tenure in Pittsburgh, he benefited from some of the nation’s most restrictive and predator-friendly laws which effectively blocked all but a tiny handful of victims from bringing criminal or civil charges against pedophile priests and exposing corrupt church officials. Wuerl is one of a handful of US Catholic prelates who assiduously works at burnishing his public image and has escaped much of the scrutiny on his misdeeds with the church’s on-going clergy sex scandal.

He dodged a bullet when, years ago, a Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling tossed out dozens of civil child sex abuse and cover up lawsuits, any of which could have exposed stunning deceit, callousness and recklessness in the Pittsburgh diocese.

In 2004, we said this about Wuerl: “While publicly posturing as a "reformer" on this issue, he allows his PR staff to attack the motives of victims and their attorneys, and refuses to publicly name known and suspected abusive clergy. He bought one half hour of prime time local television to run basically a selr-serving "infomercial" about how well his diocese is handling abuse, but refused to allow a victim on the panel. Wuerl has ignored requests to help warn West Virginia families about an abusive priest from Pittsburgh (Fr. Jack Hoehl) who is now practicing in that state as a counselor.”

Some give Wuerl credit for defrocking a predator priest, Anthony Cipolla, in 2002, claiming Wuerl moved more quickly against Cipolla than some of his brother bishops did against child molesting clerics. That’s the wrong yardstick, however.

One reason we’re in this mess – with hundreds of thousands of kids across the globe molested by tens of thousands of priests – is because bishops cover for one another and refuse to even verbally rebuke their most corrupt colleagues. For bishops, it’s a comfortable and safe culture. For most of the rest of the church and society, it’s dangerous and unhealthy. Rather than fight this sick culture, Zubik is perpetuating it.

There are thousands of devout Catholic lay people and saints and priests who never once ignored or concealed clergy sex crimes. Name the school after any of them. But not after a bishop who, like most of his colleagues, is more concerned with his own reputation than with children’s safety.

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