Remember the Survivors

SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests - Tennessee
The cover-up of clergy sexual abuse continues . . . how much longer?

Frequently asked questions on the John Jay Study - a voluntary study

1.  What's your reaction to this study?
--- It's not a study. It's a voluntary self-survey. Just because I work for NASA doesn't mean I'm an astronaut. Just because academics tallied the survey doesn't mean its' a 'study.'

2.  Are the numbers shocking?
---- To some, certainly. To most of us in SNAP, not really. A decade ago, a priest and sociologist estimated that there are 100,000 victims of between 2,000 and 4, 000 abusive priests. (Fr. Andrew Greeley of University of Chicago, in the Jesuit Magazine AMERICA, 1993)

We've long felt that bishops underreported and minimized these crimes.

3.  So what do you hope will come of all this?
---- We hope, first, that Catholics take the numbers with a huge grain of salt. Second, we hope they will quickly more beyond shock and revulsion and into real action. We hope they'll join us in pushing for statutory reforms, such a extending the criminal and civil statutes of limitations.

4.  And what do you fear will come of all this?
---- That bishops will misrepresent and mischaracterize this survey as "a complete accounting," "an unprecedented self-examination," and "a thorough study." That's what they did with last month's so-called "audit," billing it as much more than it was.

We also fear that some parishioners will succumb to the bishops' relentless PR campaign and view this as some major step forward.

Finally, we fear that it will distract attention away from the real issue: the complicity, past and current, of the bishops themselves.


5.  Isn't it a major step forward?
---- Time will tell. And of course, it could have been, had it disclosed names of perps and/or been designed so that some independent cross checking or spot checking or verification was involved. But if this leads to hopelessness or complacency, it will be a step backward. If it leads to stronger pressure for reform, it will be positive.

6.  Why are the names of the perps important?
Because without them, parents can't protect their children. Would we tolerate a chemical company announcing that in our area, they have dozens of toxic waste sites, but they won't tell us where? Of course not.

Neither should we tolerate vague assurances that "None of the known or suspected abusive priests are currently in active ministry." Telling a molester that he can't go to work at his job does not cure him. At best, it temporarily slows him down.

History and psychology tell us that abusers rarely stop. And history and news accounts have shown us that abusive priests often resurface as camp counselors, therapists, tutors, and youth volunteers, only to abuse again.

Common sense tells us that if bishops genuinely want kids to be safer, they'll publicly disclose the names of suspected and known molesters and post these names on their websites like Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore did.

Disclosure is only a first step, but it's an important one. (Creating and maintaining a welcoming climate that enables survivors to come forward is the second step.)



7.  Yes, but if they "name names," won't they be sued for slander?
Possibly, but they're smart men with smart lawyers and lots of money. Besides, we know of only one case where a priest sued his bishop for slander.

And nearly every bishop HAS been sued for shielding child molesters. Wouldn't it be terrific to see at least a few bishops criticized or sued for erring on the side of protecting innocent children over accused clerics?

8.  But isn't it good that bishops are finally being more open?
--- Praising bishops for this survey is like praising a bank robber for saying "please" and "thank you." They've behaved in shameful, often criminal ways. We believe they agreed to this survey largely because

a) they had little choice (after endless calls by many for greater openness), and
b) their PR advisers convinced them it would help "put all this behind them."

Remember some bishops fought the survey, others failed to cooperate, and it's doubtful that any told the entire truth.

Why? First, they don't know the whole truth, because thousands of victims have not and may never report. And second, because bishops have no incentive to tell all that they do know.

In fact, they have every reason to NOT tell the truth. The longer they can keep some of these crimes hidden, the sooner the statute of limitations will expire and they'll be protected from criminal and civil legal action.

9.  Why should they tell the truth? What's to be gained? In fact, bishops have spent millions of dollars for decades keeping these horrific crimes away from the police, prosecutors and parishioners. Why on earth would they suddenly do a complete reversal and disgorge everything they know.

And there's hard evidence that they're still not telling the truth. Look at the reports of those dioceses that have released some numbers already. They give out selective numbers only. Almost none have given a gender breakdown. Few have given real financial data. It's a carefully orchestrated "pick and choose" process in which those figures more favorable to the diocese are being given out; those that are unfavorable are not.

Like a kid who's asked how much candy he ate (knowing that the wrappers have long since been tossed out in the trash), bishops will naturally be tempted to "low ball" the numbers. Why not? There's no way they'll be "caught" if they do.

10.  What about the statement that no other occupational group in the country has done this kind of rigorous self-examination?
--- No other group has had to. Remember, this survey was forced upon the bishops by widespread public outrage over the repeated reassignment and cover ups of abusive clergy by the bishops themselves.

11.  But, bottom line, isn't this report (regardless of what's actually in it), a good thing?
--- If it leads to action, yes. If, however, it leads to either complacency or hopelessness, it may not be a good thing.


And it's not good if bishops misrepresent it as the truth, which we are certain they will do. That's what they did with the so-called audit last month - mischaracterized and misrepresented it to mollify the laity.

Church leaders have already used the numbers to try and convince Catholics that this is a past tense problem that most of the abuse took place long ago, and that "policies" now prevent much current or future abuse. Some Catholics may buy this spurious argument, and therefore become complacent, lax, and overconfident. In that sense, the report could actually be harmful.

12.  Aren't most cases old cases?

--- Sure. That's inevitably the case with sexual abuse. Kids simply cannot walk down to the police station and report that a powerful adult is victimizing them. Kids never have and never will do this.  Time will bring more victims


13.  What do you think will be in the report?

The report will likely stress
- a handful of abusive priests did a disproportionate degree of harm (supposedly, for example, some 147 priests molested some 3,000 kids)
- many of the offenses were long ago; the problem seems to have "peaked" in the 70s or 80s. . .
- most of the victims were boys
- most abusers allegedly had just one or two accusers

14.  Can we assume that most victims have come forward and are getting help?

-Those who have been wounded in the last 10 or 15 years are still "dormant," if you will, not yet able to understand that they've been hurt, that the impact is great, that the effects are on-going, that they have options, that they should come forward, that others were likely hurt by their perpetrator, etc. After reaching all these realizations, they must then still find the strength and courage to break their silence.

To assume, somehow, that there is less abuse now within the church is very dangerous.

  15.  I am a victim of clergy abuse.  What should I do?  Is it too late?

- Get in touch with SNAP.  We are here to help.  We will give you the support you need to find peace and justice. snap101@comcast.net   865-748-3518