SNAP Press Release
For immediate release: Monday, Sept. 20
For more information: David Clohessy 314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Victims want Seattle archbishop’s appointment rescinded
Pope promotes prelate who enabled abuse just eight months ago
In 2009, Sartain ordained a priest who was clearly sexually troubled
That cleric was caught with porn, went on to molest a boy and pled guilty
Self help group challenges pontiff to "Discipline even one complicit bishop"
“When no supervisor is ever punished for cover ups, cover ups continue,” they say
SNAP calls the case “one of the most irresponsible ones we’ve seen in eight years”
In an unprecedented move, clergy sex abuse victims are urging Pope Benedict to revoke his appointment of an Illinois bishop as the new head of Washington’s largest Catholic diocese.
Leaders of a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, are writing the pontiff about Joliet Bishop Peter Sartain who was elevated on Friday to the Seattle archdiocese. SNAP is “alarmed” that Sartain ordained a priest last year who had been caught with “young-looking male porn” just weeks earlier and who had been told by Sartain’s staff to stay away from kids.
That cleric, Fr. Alejandro Flores, pled guilty to child sex crimes two weeks ago in the suburban Chicago area. He molested a boy as recently as January of this year.
“Sartain’s secrecy and recklessness clearly enabled Flores to molest this boy up until just eight months ago,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s director. “By promoting Sartain, at best, the pope is ignoring terribly irresponsible behavior. At worst, the pope is basically endorsing and encouraging irresponsible behavior.”
On Sept. 8, prosecutors disclosed that, according to one newspaper, “Catholic officials had some warning signs about Flores.” The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office said that “Flores was caught with gay porn on his computer by Catholic officials in the spring of 2009. Though the website posted a disclaimer saying the people involved in the sex acts were not minors, (prosecutors) said Catholic officials were concerned some of the images appeared to be those of young boys.”
Since Sartain was so secretive, SNAP suspects the Vatican may not have been aware of his actions with Flores. This is the first time SNAP has ever urged that a papal appointment be rescinded.
“Our request is, of course, an extraordinary long shot. But Sartain's actions are also extraordinary,” said Barbara Dorris of SNAP. “How can he justify taking such an obvious and serious risk, and his on-going secrecy surrounding it?”
SNAP is also highly critical that of Sartain’s recent handling of abuse reports against two other priests.
SNAP contends that the Flores case is typical of Sartain’s pattern with child sex cases. He acted with “similar disregard for public safety,” the group says, in the recent case of Fr. Lee Ryan and Fr. Kevin McBrien.
Just a few months ago, SNAP held a news conference and disclosed child sex abuse allegations against the two priests. Sartain knew of the allegations against each cleric, SNAP says, for at least five months.
“But he kept kids at risk by staying silent about them and letting the priests remain in ministry among unsuspecting families,” Dorris said. “And Sartain rubbed salt into the already deep and still fresh wounds of the brave victim who reported these two child molesting clerics by his secrecy and inaction.”
The group contends that Sartain violated the official US bishops abuse policy which mandates that credibly accused predator priests be suspended promptly.
A Florida man reported Ryan’s and McBrien’s alleged crimes to Sartain’s top staffers in January 2010. Five months later, however, neither Sartain nor his staff had taken any action against the two priests or made any announcement about the accusations. The worried and frustrated victim contacted SNAP and the group revealed the allegations. Then, Sartain temporarily suspended the clerics.
“Weeks ago, a Joliet chancery office staffer privately told that victim that Ryan would never be restored to ministry,” said Dorris. “But even now, Sartain chooses secrecy, refusing to disclose this decision publicly, leaving parishioners in the dark.”
The Flores case is the most clear and egregious example, SNAP believes, “that corrupt bishops continue to get moved up in the church structure and that little if anything has changed in the way the Catholic hierarchy handles abuse. It’s also proof that the alleged “screening” at seminaries isn’t happening or isn’t effective,” Clohessy said.
SNAP contends that never in the church history has the Vatican disciplined, demoted or defrocked a bishop for mishandling clergy sex cases. (A handful of prelates have voluntarily resigned under pressure, however, for either committing or concealing child sex crimes, most recently in Belgium. A list is available at BishopAccountability.org)
As long as no complicit Catholic official ever loses even one title, one honor, or one day’s pay, SNAP feels that the church’s long-standing, deeply-rooted culture of secrecy surrounding child sex crimes will continue.
A copy of SNAP’s letter to the Pope is available upon request: SNAPclohessy@aol.com
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests