SNAP Leaders Met with Santorum July 21, Promised Quick Response

For Immediate Release
August 1, 2005

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)
SNAPnetwork.org

Contact: Peter Isely, SNAP National Board (414-29-7259); Tammy Lerner, SNAP Pennsylvania (610-509-9568)

Victims of Clergy Abuse Expecting Decisive Action this Week by Senator Santorum

Santorum stands by his clergy abuse comments Sunday on ABC

SNAP leaders met with Santorum July 21, promised quick response

Senator Richard Santorum repeated today on This Week with George Stephanopoulus that the cultural climate of Boston was responsible for the sexual abuse of children by clergy. He also specifically targeted Senators Edward Kennedy and John Kerry of Massachusetts for “doing nothing” to stop these terrible crimes while he was “working hard” at doing so but provided little proof of exactly what actions he has taken to end abuse in the church.

In a meeting with Senator Santorum on July 25, leaders from the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the nation’s oldest and largest organization of clergy sexual abuse survivors with over 6,000 active members, including many chapters in the Senator’s home state of Pennsylvania, urged Santorum to put concrete actions behind his words.

Specifically, SNAP asked the Senator to find out why the U.S. Justice Department has taken no action to investigate the Catholic Church’s secret transport of pedophile priests across state lines and international boundaries via church operated “treatment” and “retreat” facilities. These secret transfers of pedophiles out of their prosecution districts has been conducted, according to evidence uncovered in civil and criminal cases against pedophile clergy across the country, so that no report would be made to civil author ties by church officials of sex abuse crimes against children.

A detailed request for such an investigation was sent to the Justice Department by SNAP over a year ago and has received little response. That request and a detailed proposal for a federal investigation is posted at the group’s website at SNAPnetwork.org.

Senator Santorum promised in his meeting with clergy abuse victims to “immediately” find out why the Justice Department has apparently taken little or no action with SNAP’s request. We also asked for a meeting with the U.S. Attorney General to be arranged by Senator Santorum and that he be in attendance.

Below is SNAP’s letter to Senator Santorum following the meeting. SNAP is expecting a reply from the Senator early this week.

SNAP Letter to Senator Santorum concerning 9-21 Meeting with Victims, Justice Department Investigation
July 22, 2005

Dear Senator Santorum

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and your staff and discuss our alarm and perplexity that United States Justice Department has failed to respond to our 2003 request for an investigation into the criminal activity of pedophile clergy, not only in the United States but around the world.

As our report to the department in 2003 detailed, the United States Bishops have been deeply complicit in the hidden movement of sex offender clergy across state and international borders for well over two decades with the express purpose of thwarting criminal prosecution.

The result of this organized effort is now well documented: thousands of Catholic children who could have been spared the horror of sexual violence by a priest or religious were molested, raped and sodomized. Worse, thousands of pedophile clergy who could have been prosecuted remain unpunished and outside the supervision of our criminal justice system, known by their bishops to be living undetected in hundreds of communities across the country. We have urged the bishops to release the names of all known sex offender clergy and in which neighborhoods the church has placed them. They have, thus far, refused to comply with this request.

As federal and state laws are increasingly being proposed and enacted to better monitor sex offenders and alert communities to their presence, pedophile clergy remain under the radar of our laws and our vigilance. We strongly support legislation like that currently being drafted by Senators Bidden and Hatch that would increase our monitoring and control of child sex offenders. But this legislation must also address those sectors of our nation, like churches and schools, where sex offenders continue to have access to children inside organizations that allow individuals to work with youngsters in an unregulated and unsupervised environment. All children deserve the same protection and vigilant care, no matter what type of organizational environment they find themselves in.

Additionally, we encourage you to reach out to Secretary Chertoff at the Department of Homeland Security since he has similarly championed Operation Predator, a national program to remove dangerous sex offenders from our local communities. As the former Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division within DOJ, he has also ensured that sex offenders are tracked down and brought to justice regardless of whether they are in United States or the abroad.

We share your distress and alarm, both as a fellow citizen and a fellow Catholic, that the cancer of child sexual abuse has destroyed the lives of so many Catholic children and families and continues to shake the faith of Catholics and citizens across our nation.

As the highest ranking Catholic in the United States Senate and a visible symbol of an emerging Catholic voice in the political life of our nation we are encouraged that are so committed to taking an active lead in addressing this terrible problem and help us bring abusive clergy and complicit bishops to justice.

Some believe that a liberal and permissive culture in the United States over several decades is responsible, ultimately, for the widespread abuse of children in our church; others contend that the largely conservative beliefs of most American Bishops encouraged them to place the concerns of institutional power and authority over the safety of Catholic children.

Whatever the causes of clerical abuse the consequences are clear: a lifetime of suffering and anguish for children and families, the shattering of a once innocent and unencumbered faith in Providence, and dishonor and shame visited upon the entire American Catholic community because of the immorality of some priests condoned and supported, implicitly and explicitly, by almost every bishop in the United States.

Catholics understand this problem because they love their children. They know, as poll after poll has shown over the past three years, that the sexual abuse of children is the number one problem that must be addressed by the Pope and his bishops and that any Cardinal or bishop that aided in the transfer of a pedophile priest, knowing that the priest had abused children, should be removed from his position of authority. The later demand has occurred in only one instance, Cardinal Law of Boston (who, as the bishop’s own audits show, was not in charge of the diocese with the most pedophile priests relative to the Catholic population, that unfortunate burden belonging, it appears, to the Catholics of Covington, KY.). As for the former Catholic demand-it is hard to imagine how meaningful statements are by bishops and religious order provincials who not only cover up for child sex abuse but continue to financially support and keep secret from Catholics and citizens the identities and locations of thousands of felony sex offenders.

For clarity, we want to reiterate our requests in our meeting with you yesterday:

1. That you immediately inquire with the Justice Department as to the fate of our 2003 request and why there as been little or not response. You have promised us you will do that and we are anxious for your reply. We are certain that you will sit down with us and officials of the department and sort out what action has and has not been taken concerning this grave matter.

2. That you will facilitate and join us in a meeting with the United States Attorney General concerning the substance of our 2003 request. You told us that it is “difficult even” for you “to get a meeting with the Attorney General.” If you are unable to do so, then, of course, there is little you can do about it; perhaps you can help us find someone who might be able to get us in touch with the Attorney General. We are alarmed, given the wide spread attention to this problem by the public for so many years, that no such meeting has ever taken place. We understand that you have given us no commitment in our meeting whether you will contact the Attorney General and join us in such a meeting.

3. That you will join us at one of our support group meetings either in Washington or Pennsylvania as soon as possible. Hearing directly from victims and families of clerical sexual abuse would be, we believe, a very useful opportunity for you to gain greater knowledge and insight into this problem. You told us that you have been working hard “behind the scenes” for years to address pedophilia in the church, “talking with bishops, priests and Vatican officials.” It may now be helpful for you to meet directly with our families and us. If that is not something you desire to do or you would not find helpful, that would be disappointing to us, but we respect your right to not meet with us. Also, as with the previous request, we received no commitment from you in our meeting if you will meet with victims.

Finally, you mentioned that you have an upcoming election. As we communicated with you and your staff: victims of priest abuse in your home state our extraordinarily anxious to see decisive action from you. We are working hard in Pennsylvania to reform state laws so that all victims of child sexual abuse can gain access to our courts.

Many of our members are Catholic, some have left the church; some or our members are liberal, some very conservative- what joins us together is that we were all violated sexually as children by clergy and that our bishops did little or nothing to stop it.

Please, we urge you and, for that matter, your Democratic opponent in the upcoming race- whom we will also be contacting for help, especially with Pennsylvania state law – to join with us in bringing sex offender clergy to justice, errant bishops to strict account, and create a safe future for all children, in your beloved home state of Pennsylvania and around the nation.

Very Sincerely Yours,

Peter J. Isely
SNAP National Board

John Salveson
SNAP Pennsylvania, Co-Director

Tammy Lerner
SNAP Pennsylvania Co-Director

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