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SNAP press release from 2005 on Monsignor Stika

This press release was sent out several years ago and is published here because of the information included. 


For immediate release: Thursday, Jan. 6, 2005

For more information:

David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP National Director 314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, SNAP Outreach Director 314 862 7618

SNAP Asks That Catholic Official Be Fired

A support group for clergy molestation victims is asking St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke to replace his “point man” on sexual abuse, Monsignor Richard Stika. 


Members of SNAP are upset about Stika’s handing of several abuse cases over the past few years, but most recently about the allegations against Fr. Michael Freymuth.


Last week, on the same day SNAP publicly expressed concern about Freymuth, archdiocesan PR director Jamie Allman announced that the cleric was suspended over “allegations of inappropriate conduct.”


“Apparently, however, the suspension was done secretly. No announcement was evidently made to parents of the school where Freymuth was working or members of the parish where Freymuth was assigned,” said said David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP’s National Director. “This is a huge retreat back into the secrecy that enabled thousands of priests to assault tens of thousands of kids.”


A young man reported being sexually abused by Freymuth two years ago, but Stika did not believe him, Clohessy said. Nor did Stika make the accusation public. 


“As a result, for two years, children were needlessly and recklessly kept at risk of more abuse,” said Clohessy. “God help Stika if some child comes forward years from now and reports having been raped by Freymuth in 2003 or 2004.”


The group also cited Stika’s public assertion last year that a priest who was unanimously found guilty by a jury (Fr. Bryan Kuchar) might, in fact, be innocent.


Today, the group is writing Burke urging him to

- oust Stika, and

- appoint in his place a lay person who is a psychologist or therapist to handle wounded, fearful individuals and who has experience with abuse allegations.

 

“It’s self-defeating and insensitive to ask people raped and molested by a priest to report to a priest,” said Barbara Dorris, SNAP’s Outreach Director. “Why use someone who studied theology and church history instead of someone who studied psychology and social work?”


A copy of SNAP letter to Burke, sent today by fax and e mail, is below:


Dear Archbishop Burke:


We are writing about Msgr. Richard Stika and his continued mishandling of sexual abuse cases involving clergy. We ask that you essentially fire him from this role and replace him with someone more compassionate and committed to taking prompt action to safeguard children from dangerous clergy.


One year ago, you officially took over this archdiocese. During the past 12 months, you have chosen to stick with essentially the same defense lawyers and advisers who have overseen abuse cases.


You have apparently chosen to rely on the same Catholic therapists and treatment centers used by your predecessors.


You have not, to our knowledge, made any significant changes or additions to the abuse review panel already in place. 

In short, we can't single out even one noteworthy change in how abuse cases are now handled since you took over here.  (Yet you have certainly shown no reluctance to "rock the boat" and make significant changes in other areas.)


(All across the country, bishops claim they're learning from their mistakes, and want to handle abuse by clergy better. Yet almost without exception, they continue to surround themselves with the very same staff members and defense attorneys and therapists. It makes one doubt the wisdom or sincerity of some church leaders.)


Still we are urging you to make one important step toward healing and reform, by  removing Msgr. Stika.


During Stika’s tenure, archdiocesan staff have not: 

- posted names of known, admitted, and suspected abusive clerics in parish bulletins, the archdiocesan web site, or the archdiocesan weekly newspaper (Bishops in Toledo, Milwaukee, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Tucson and other dioceses have done this.)

- disclosed the name of even one newly accused cleric unless prodded or forced to do so by the victim, his/her family, the prosecutor, a civil attorney or the news media

- spoken at even one parish where an accused priest was removed, and openly addressed abuse allegations (with only one exception: Archbishop Rigali speaking at a Crestwood parish where Fr. Robert Johnston worked),

- disclosed which abusive priests, if any, are being defrocked (other than one instance), 

- disclosed where even one abusive priest is living, so that parents can be warned and kids can be protected,

- named a molestation victim to the archdiocesan review board.


 In addition, archdiocesan staff are allowing:

- at least two priests who faced civil molestation lawsuits to remain in active ministry, even today (Fr. Alex Anderson and Fr. Bruce Forman),

- one priest who has been accused of molesting at least three individuals to remain pastor of a large parish in Eureka (Fr. Alex Anderson),

- several convicted or admitted or suspected abusive clerics to quietly live at least two church-affiliated housing centers for molesters, 

- at least one accused molester, Fr. Thomas Graham, to use a legal technicality to evade criminal prosecution.


Archdiocesan staff have failed to speak out when: 

- an admitted child molesting priest quietly walked away from the rural church center where he lived and moved into a residential neighborhood near two schools (Fr. William Wiebler),

-allowed a brother wanted on child sexual abuse charges in Canada, to live in a non-secure treatment center in our diocese (Brother Gerald Chumik

- a convicted pedophile priest moved into the archdiocese just 20 minutes from one of his young victims (Fr. Mark Roberts),

- an abusive priest was charged with receiving child porn in the mail at the church-run center where he lives (David Malsch), 

- a criminally charged priest wore his Roman collar in the courtroom, in clear violation of the bishops’ national abuse guidelines,

- that same priest wore  his Roman collar in public even AFTER being convicted. (Bryan Kuchar)

- Missouri sex abuse victims were struggling in the legislature to reform archaic laws that unjustly protected child molesters, 

- dozens of your brother bishops sought to back-track on the promises they made in Dallas and derail the so-called sex abuse "audits" of each diocese,
- when, just last month,  dozens of your brother bishops quietly voted to essentially gut that process, replacing on-site visits by auditors with mere self-reports by church officials,


We could go on, but the pattern is clear. Under Msgr. Stika, the handling of the abuse crisis here has basically been the same hurtful, failed "bare minimum" approach of the past: deny, minimize, split hairs, keep secrets, fight hard in court, while saying all the right, pastoral things in public.  


Most recently, we’re troubled by Stika’s mishandling of allegations against Fr. Michael Freymuth. A young man reported being molested by Freymuth two years ago, but Stika chose to keep that allegation secret, and chose to disbelieve the young man.


A second man made allegations of sexual misconduct against Freymuth last month, leading to the eventual and belated but secretive suspension.Thus, kids at both a parochial school and at a parish were left needlessly at risk of being abused by Freymuth. 


You and your brother bishops promised to be more open regarding abuse in the future. Stika apparently believes otherwise. We’re appalled that a suspected molester would be suspended yet no one be notified.


In short, keeping Stika serves neither your purposes nor ours. 


We hope you will consider removing this man from his role in dealing with abuse victims, and begin 2005 with a step that helps restore confidence in your leadership and helps victims feel less intimidated and discouraged about reporting abuse.


David Clohessy

National Director, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

7234 Arsenal Street

St. Louis MO 63143

314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915


Barbara Dorris

Outreach Coordinator, SNAP

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

6245 Westminster                               

St. Louis MO 63130