Tuesday, April 6, 2010

SNAPS Unfortunate Press Release On Archbishop Gomez

Sadly the relationship between SNAP (An Advocate for Catholic Clergy Abuse Victims) and the Bishops is not good. There is on both sides an element of distrust. Of course they are the victims and because of the past that is understandable. The problem is because of this distrust progress I often find is slowed down.

Now there are many SNAPS that are associated with individual Faith Communities. I am not commenting on them because I do not follow their leadership very closely. Also no doubt in SNAP itself there are different views.

SNAP has issued a Press release on the new Archbishop of LA. See SNAP leaders comment on appointment of Archbishop Gomez as coadjutor of Los Angeles

The bolding is all mine:

Statement by Barbara Garcia Boehland of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests 210-621-2177; Cell: 210-725-8329
With Gomez, the Pope is promoting a bishop with a troubling record of recent secrecy and risk regarding child safety. If the Pope is trying to convince us he’s “tough” on abuse, he’s shooting himself in the foot by elevating Gomez.

Just last year, Gomez kept silent about two clerics whose religious supervisors deemed ‘credibly accused’ of sexually abusing teenagers. One of those clerics now apparently works in Rome.

One is Brother Richard Suttle of the Claretian Missionaries, who Gomez is letting live and study in San Antonio. “He sexually abused a teen in the early 1980s in Arizona, according to a public notice from the Phoenix diocese,” wrote the Express-News last year.

The other, Father Charles H. Miller of the Society of Mary “worked at St. Mary’s University for more than two decades and was let go in 2007 after his religious order found a claim that he sexually abused a teen in 1980 to be credible. Last year (2008) he was moved to Rome,” the Express News wrote in 2009. Evidently Miller still works for the Marianists there.

In both cases, Gomez let religious orders quietly transfer credibly accused clerics into the San Antonio diocese in recent years. Neither Gomez nor the religious orders apparently warned parishioners or the public.

Then there’s Fr. Larry Hernandez. His religious order suspended his faculties in early 2008 because of credible abuse allegations. Gomez kept it quiet until March 2009.

Furthermore, Gomez hails from the Denver archdiocese which has and continues to distinguish itself by its particularly harsh legal maneuvers against clergy sex abuse victims.
We’re very saddened and disappointed by this choice.
* * *
Statement by David Clohessy of SNAP (314 566 9790,
There are plenty of US bishops who have acted recklessly and secretively in one or two cases during 2009. Unfortunately, the Pope is promoting one who has acted recklessly and secretively in three such cases during the last year.

Now what to say about all this. Lets us take the case of Father Larry Hernandez. First it appears SNAP is very wrong that Gomez kept quiet until 2009.

In fact we can see that this was known in July of 2008!!! From the Washinton D.C. Catholic paper.

A priest of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians) who taught at DeMatha High School in Hyattsville and who assisted at Masses at St. Mark's Parish in Hyattsville, has been accused of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred more than 25 years ago in Texas.

The allegation against Trinitarian Father Lawrence Hernandez, "would have occurred more than 25 years ago when he worked as a priest in the Archdiocese of San Antonio and prior to his entry into the Trinitarians and his teaching at DeMatha Catholic High School," said a statement issued by the Order of the most Holy Trinity.According to the Trinitarians, officials of the Archdiocese of San Antonio reported the allegation to the civil authorities in Texas.

"Immediately upon receiving the allegation, the Trinitarians placed him on administrative leave and the Archdiocese of Washington withdrew his faculties to function as a priest," said Msgr. Barry C. Knestout, archdiocesan moderator of the curia and vicar for administration, said in a letter read at all Masses last weekend at St. Mark's Parish.

"This is the only allegation against Father Lawrence. No charges have been filed."The statement from the Trinitarians stressed that "in accord with the policies and procedures of the Trinitarians' Code of Conduct, Father Lawrence has been placed on administrative leave and his faculties to perform public priestly ministry have been suspended, pending investigation of the allegation."The order also said that "until learning of the allegations, neither the Trinitarians nor DeMatha administrators were aware of any misconduct by Father Lawrence.

He has denied any wrongdoing during his tenure at DeMatha."Msgr. Knestout, in his letter, called on the faithful to pray for those affected by Father Hernandez's actions, and said that the archdioceses "is committed to doing all we can to ensure that the young people in our care and our broader community are safe from harm.""Anyone with knowledge of improper conduct involving Father Lawrence should contact the civil authorities and the Trinitarians at 410-294-9673," Father Knestout said. "Anyone with knowledge of improper conduct involving any archdiocesan representative is asked to call Marcia Zvara, archdiocesan director of child protection services, at 301-853-5328."

Some secret!!!

The Diocese then after completing its investigation and finding the claims credible gave a much more wider notification to the people of their own Diocese in 2009.

It seems GOMEZ acted correctly here.

Now as to Father Charles H. Miller who is also in a Religious Order .

Father Miller, who still proclaims his innocence to this day I believe, was a teacher at a Catholic College. It appears the Archbishop acted very correctly here. In fact you can read the words of the victim herself!! in which said among other things "

She also wrote the Archdiocese of San Antonio, which she thinks helped expedite her complaint."

The Archbishop has no current jurisdiction over this Priest. It appears the Marian Order moved him to ROME to work in their administrative office where also they can keep a eye on him. Which seems proper and I for one am glad he is not being unsupervised. Which is what would have happened if was put out on the Street. However the Archbishop has no jurisdiction over him and again it appears the Archbishop acted properly.

Finally as to Brother Richard Suttle of the Claretian Missionaries.

On the Diocese of Phoenix Web site we see this 2008 entry
The Claretian Missionaries of the U.S. Western Province have notified the Diocese of Phoenix that their review board has found a report of sexual abuse of a minor to be credible against Br. Richard Suttle, a religious brother of the Claretian Order. Credibility does not imply either guilt or innocence but rather that the allegations made in the report are possible.

In that report, Br. Richard Suttle, CMF, is accused of engaging in sexual abuse of a minor during the 1982-83 school year while at Sacred Heart School in Prescott, AZ, where Br. Suttle was a teacher and a coach. After becoming aware of the report during the fall of 2008, the Diocese of Phoenix promptly conducted a thorough investigation into the charges and forwarded its findings to the Claretian Missionaries for their review and disposition.

To date, the report of the 1982-83 abuse at Sacred Heart is the only report of sexual abuse of a minor against Br. Suttle that is known to the Diocese of Phoenix. Likewise, the Claretian Missionaries have confirmed that they are not aware of any other allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against Br. Suttle.

The Claretian Missionaries have officially informed the Diocese of Phoenix that Br. Suttle no longer resides in Arizona and will not be assigned to the Diocese at any time in the future. The religious order has removed him from any ministry involving minors and has placed him on a plan that restricts and monitors his movements.

The Diocese of Phoenix has confirmed that Br. Suttle was also employed at Bourgade Catholic High School in Phoenix from 1988 to 1998, where he was a teacher and coach, and that he served as principal of Sacred Heart School in Prescott between 2006 and 2008.

The Diocese urges anyone who may know of any sexual abuse or other improprieties by Br. Suttle or who may have any other such information about him to contact the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office at 602-506-3411, the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office at 928-771-3485, or the Claretian Missionaries at 626-289-2009.

As always, Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted and the Diocese of Phoenix encourage anyone who has experienced sexual misconduct or abuse by a member of the clergy or by any worker of the Church to make a report to local law enforcement and to contact Jean Sokol at the Office of Child and Youth Protection at 602-354-2396

Then he shows up in San Antonio where it appears these restrictions have continued. See Allegation of abuse follows brother here
Brother Richard Suttle, a member of a California-based religious order who is accused of child molestation, has moved to San Antonio, igniting a campaign by a victims' advocacy group demanding he be stripped of his religious credentials and forced to leave.
The local director of SNAP, or Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and her husband protested Suttle's relocation Thursday in front of the Archdiocese of San Antonio's headquarters.
Suttle, a member of the Claretian Missionaries of the U.S. Western Province, denies the allegation of abuse, and his order says he came here in July from Arizona to study for a doctorate. He lives at a residency along with five other Claretians on the campus of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 617 S. Santa Rosa St., downtown.

The allegation was made public in December when the Diocese of Phoenix issued a statement that a “credible” claim of sex abuse had been made against Suttle. It also said this conclusion didn't mean he was either innocent or guilty, but that the claim was “possible.”
The abuse is alleged to have taken place during the 1982-83 school year at Sacred Heart Parish School in Prescott, Ariz., where Suttle was a teacher, coach and principal.

SNAP Director Barbara Garcia-Boehland said she believes Suttle's emergence here reflects a strategy to conceal the allegation and questions why the archdiocese and the order did not make public his whereabouts sooner.
“Obviously, they are not sticking with their own policies and doing background checks,” she said. “We need this guy out of the city. He's a danger

Now let me say what is it. On one hand SNAP is worried that a Priest is out of the City and now in Rome. Here we see that they are mad he is in the city.

The order's provincial superior, Father Richard DeTore, defended Suttle in a phone interview Thursday, citing the public notifications made in Arizona to the police and Catholic communities and the restrictions placed on him while living here. He added that Suttle has not been charged with a civil or criminal offense.
DeTore said Suttle came to San Antonio in July exclusively to study for a doctorate — three months before the allegation was made. At that point, DeTore said he put Suttle on a “restrictive safety plan” that keeps him away from children and young people by banning him from all ministry.

He is also required to sign in and out of the residence and declare where he's headed and for how long.

DeTore said there was a brief period when Suttle was helping to distribute Communion as a Eucharistic minister at Immaculate Heart parish, which is run by the Claretian community. DeTore said that once he learned of the situation, he put a stop to it.

“We are currently putting together an investigation for ourselves and allowing Richard, who claims he is innocent of these charges, to bring forward a defense against these charges,” DeTore said.

Deacon Pat Rodgers, archdiocesan spokesman, said the religious order is primarily responsible for handling the matter since Suttle is living with them and he has no ministry assignment for the archdiocese to manage. And so far, Rodgers said, the order's actions have been appropriate.

“We have a long history with the Claretians, and there is no reason to think the safety of the parish is threatened,” he said.

Garcia-Boehland of the victim's group demanded that San Antonio Auxiliary Bishop Oscar Cantú meet with her in the archdiocesan lobby since Archbishop José Gomez was out of town. She wanted to hand-deliver a letter of concern. Rodgers assured her he'd give the letter to Cantú, but not before a tense exchange filmed by TV news cameras and watched by a couple of security guards.

Garcia-Boehland eventually left the letter at the front desk after chiding Rodgers and the archdiocese.
“What are you waiting for?” she asked Rodgers. “For him to rape children here before doing anything?”.

Now what do we have here.

We have one allegation that has surfaced coming from 1982. It appears the system was working. We have a finding of "credible" which is described as this abuse possibly could have happened .This is a much lower standard than Preponderance of Evidence which is used by Grand Juries to file a indictment.

It appears the Order is working to find the truth of the matter.

It also appears that while this investigation is happening the Brother is just living with members of his order while he attends school.

He is now it appears on something similar Bail requirement where he has to sign in and out and has restrictions where he can go. NOTE THIS WOULD NOT BE HAPPENING IF HE WAS OUT OF THE CHURCH.

Now this is the touchy issue. We are dealing with a complaint that is "Possible" and appears to be under investigation still. What is the standard do we need to apply to "possible". Let us say that you were a LAY Catholic Youth Minister and are accused of something that occurred in 1982.

It is the only complaint and there has been no litigation Civil or Criminal. Lets say you moved to a different State where you attend Mass . Does the Church need to put an ad in the paper and announce to the Diocese and to the local church that have you been accused. If that happened to me I would be contemplating a huge ole lawsuit!! If we were talking School systems instead of Dioceses and Teachers instead of Priests or Brothers that is exactly what would happen

What is the answer to how to handle this? I am not sure? In this case there will be need for some clarification of what happened here. We do have an interaction between Archdiocese and a Religious Order that are always not on the same page. I think in this case a notification to the Parish would have been in order but I don't know all the facts here. Still it seems on the whole the Archbishop and the order are handling this matter in a responsible manner.


Mary Ellen said...

I'm not sure why Br. Richard Suttle was never arrested or tried in civil court concerning the allegations against him. It's been 28 years since the accusation. So that tells me that the person who made the allegation had no proof or the civil authorities thought there was no proof.

Also, no matter how closely they monitor him, if he was a person who would abuse, he would have done it again or he would have left the order because he couldn't control his actions. Pedophiles or child abusers just don't "get over it" when they've had a close call.

Also, if this allegation were credible enough, why has there not been a trial in Cannon Court? If that's possible, I would think that the Vatican or the Church authorities are being awfully lax in a time that they can't afford to be.

This is the problem with cases like this...you don't want to condemn a man if he is innocent, however, you do need to make sure of that innocence and move on. Leaving this whole thing in limbo makes everyone look bad.

Personally, if I knew that this Brother had this accusation in his history, I wouldn't let any of my kids near him. Not that I want to accuse an innocent man without absolute proof, but they are my kids and as their parent it's my job to be careful.

In this case, I can see both sides of the coin and that's why this case needs to be cleared immediately. Just the fact that they are STILL keeping such a close eye on him tells me that there is something to worry about.

James H said...

I agree the Case with the Brother is a close call. The fact that he appears just to be living with his community and seems restricted in ministry seems to be good.

I am curious what the Dioceses do as to LAY Catholics. I mean lets say you are Catholic School Teacher instead of a brother and insert the same facts.

I think the Dicoese would be sued bu the accused. So I am not sure how to handle the notifcation issue in all these cases

Mary Ellen said...

JH- I imagine they would handle it like any public school...report the teacher to the authorities and fire them on the spot. At that point, it's up to the parents to make sure that justice is served in the courts. The parents can turn around and sue the school if they find out that the school was aware that the teacher was a pedophile or has a record of this, but if the teacher has no record, there's nothing that could be done to the school--legally.

I'm wondering why the church doesn't follow somewhat of the same path. Call the authorities, have the priest, brother, etc. arrested and charged. Let him/her go through the court system and if they are found guilty, start taking measures to have them laicized (sp?).

If the priest is let out on parole, then they should be put on probation and "house arrest", so to speak, where the church can keep an eye on them and make sure they are nowhere near children of any age.

James H said...

"I'm wondering why the church doesn't follow somewhat of the same path. Call the authorities, have the priest, brother, etc. arrested and charged. Let him/her go through the court system and if they are found guilty, start taking measures to have them laicized (sp?). "
Well I think this being done now as to new cases. However as most cases we are dealing the Statute of Limitations for a criminal proceeding is already passed.

Needless to say Law enforcement with their massive resources is not going to conduct a massive investigation just for the heck of it if there can be charge made

Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

In my parish, St. John the Evangelist in Goshen, NY, the first major pedophile scandal materialized in the early nineties. The priest in question, "Father Ed" had been molesting boys in their early teens. To say that the parishioners were traumatized by this would be an understatement. They were devastated. Then something wondrous happened....

Father Ed was eventually replaced by Father Trevor Nichols. Father Trevor had been an Anglican in merrie old England when he converted to Catholicism. On becoming a Catholic was transferred to Saint John's - WITH HIS WIFE AND TWO DAUGHTERS! A married priest! WITH TWO KIDS!

You want to hear the punch line? Our little parish did not implode. The sun did not fall from the sky. Huge cracks did not appear in the earth's surface. In fact, it was nice having them. They were - and are to this day - deeply beloved by the people of St. John's.

Allowing priests to marry would transform the Catholic Church. Having Father Trevor, his wife Marian and their two lovely daughters in our midst certainly transformed the people of St. John's.


Tom Degan

Daniel said...

Statistically speaking, there are a far greater number of married men that have abused children than celibate priests.