SNAP's Abuse 'Report Card' Is Challenged

The Catholic New World [Chicago IL]
Downloaded June 22, 2003

Archdiocesan officials responded angrily to a "report card" issued by a sexual abuse survivors group about the way the archdiocese has handled the clerical sexual abuse crisis. The dispute points out ongoing areas of disagreement between the archdiocese and victim advocacy groups about how such cases should be handled.

"The most charitable thing you can say about the report card is that it's questionable," said Jim Dwyer, director of the archdiocesan Office of Communications. "Some of their allegations are demonstrably false."

The report card from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests gives grades in six categories-three F's, a D, a B, and an incomplete.

The first F comes in the area of "openness & transparency," for, according to the report card, failing to release the names of priest perpetrators and not releasing victims from "gag orders."

"Where's the list?" asked Barbara Blaine of SNAP.

Dwyer said that every time a priest is removed from ministry because of sexual abuse allegations, members of the parish are notified and the archdiocese responds to media inquiries, but Cardinal George has said he will not release a complete list of all perpetrators reported in the last 10 years. Some are dead and can't defend themselves, he said, and none of them has had a chance to defend themselves in court.

"Our threshold for whether there is reasonable cause to suspect abuse is much lower than you would face in court," Dwyer said. "If there was a list, these people would be branded child molesters, and they haven't been convicted of anything."

Dwyer also said Cardinal George has repeatedly said the archdiocese would not hold any victims to court-ordered confidentiality agreements. Blaine wants the archdiocese to go to court to have such agreements lifted.

SNAP also gave the archdiocese failing grades on warning parents and having zero tolerance, and a D for protecting kids. The D grade was based on a former priest accused of sex abuse who was found working at the Shedd Aquarium-with a letter of recommendation from the archdiocese, said the report card.

But the man in question was a religious order priest, and no one from the archdiocese wrote any letters to the Shedd about him, Dwyer said.

The incomplete was in training employees to respond to abuse-something Dwyer said the archdiocese has done for 10 years-and the B was in providing counseling to victims.

Dwyer noted that the archdiocese provides counseling even when the archdiocese can't find any grounds for an accuser's allegations.

"What do we have to do?" he asked.


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