Wednesday, July 30, 2014
No Excuse for Abuse: Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests celebrates 25 years of fighting child abuse by catholic clergy
When victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests first organized into a small band of volunteer activists: the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in the late 1980s, reports of clergy molesting children were still new and relatively few. Most were minimized as “single occurrences” or dismissed altogether — much the way the victims were.
But today, as SNAP, marks its 25th anniversary at a conference in Chicago (Aug. 1-3), its members can take satisfaction in seeing that its claims have been validated, and that a few (though hardly all) of its recommendations have been implemented by the church hierarchy. (www.snapnetwork.org)
Because of SNAP’s advocacy on the Catholic scandal, victims now are much more likely to come forward to tell their stories, whether they were abused by clergy, by nuns, by athletic coaches or Boy Scout leaders or others.
SNAP soon developed a core membership of a few thousand people, mainly victims, who met in small support groups while also trying to push the issue onto the public agenda but the public was indifferent or outright hostile.
Then in January 2002, The Boston Globe began its groundbreaking series exposing the widespread abuse of children by priests in the Boston archdiocese, and the cover-up by bishops. The story caught fire and led to similar revelations across the nation and to an unprecedented level of media coverage, prosecutions and lawsuits.
SNAP’s membership took off, and now stands at more than 19,000, with 60 chapters around the U.S. and eight overseas. SNAP spends time and money helping survivors, maintaining support groups and providing costly legal support in cases against the perpetrators.
The 2014 SNAP Annual Conference will be a "reunion" conference on August 1-3, 2014 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place hotel in Chicago.
“No Excuse for Abuse” SNAP tee shirts (see photo) will be offered at the Conference for a donation of $15.00 to Boston-Worcester SNAP. The shirts come in adult sizes S, M, L, XL, and XXL. Checks should be made out to the Chapter Director, David O'Regan at 65 Greenville St., Spencer MA. 01562. All funds from the proceeds will help Boston-Worcester SNAP survivors along with helping monthly chapter expenditures.
I encourage all survivors of child sexual and physical abuse to join SNAP as I have – they are kind, supportive people – most are survivors themselves and they understand that together we will survive and thrive and stop the abusers.
Saturday, July 5, 2014
A priest (no name given, see his photo) and his accomplice, a hospital employee, are charged with sexually abusing patients between 2004 and 2010 in several Portuguese hospitals run by a roman catholic order: "The charge relates to the sexual abuse of four patients in the care of institutions run by the Hospitaller Order of Saint John of God," prosecutors said in a statement this week. One of the hospitals mentioned in the indictment is an institution specialized for the mentally ill.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Beware! The order operates more than 250 medical centers around the world: in Africa, Asia, Australia, all of Europe, Mexico and South America and in the U.S. in Los Angeles and New Jersey. Here we have representatives of the roman catholic church who advertise that they are “a national charity helping vulnerable people to lead fulfilling lives and reach their potential.” Note the word, “vulnerable” – that is just the people these criminals prey upon. They “treat” people with learning and physical disabilities, people with mental health problems, those who have difficulties with drug and alcohol abuse and migrants who are vulnerable to homelessness – all those who cannot defend themselves. They hide behind God and have the nerve to call themselves (in Italian): Fatebenefratelli, meaning "Do-Good Brothers". “Do-Evil” is more like it.
This latest church scandal comes when the Portuguese catholic church is already under fire for the case of another priest named Luis Miguel Mendes. He was sentenced in 2013 to ten years in prison for the sexual abuse of six minors aged between 13 and 15.
A good example of how the Saint John of God “brothers” operate is what they did in New Zealand.
Marylands School which taught pupils with learning difficulties in Christchurch, New Zealand was the scene of a high-profile scandal with sexual charges made against three members of the order. By 2006, the Australasian branch of the Saint John of God order had paid out $5.1 million to survivors who had been sexually abused at the school. Over 120 complaints were made in regard to sexual and physical abuse that occurred at the school, most in the 1970s.
Bernard Kevin McGrath, a Saint John of God brother, age 65, received 21 guilty verdicts, pleading guilty to only one charge of sexually abusing boys. There were nine victims aged between 7 and 15 at the School where McGrath was a teacher and housemaster. The five-year jail term he got produced an angry reaction from people packing the High Court in Christchurch: "Die, you ... priest," said one man. "What a waste of time," said another as McGrath was led away to the cells. A man who had been at Marylands and knew the nine men McGrath had abused, said: "I'm not too impressed. This sentence is not going to bring closure for the boys." The manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, Ken Clearwater, said he was in shock. "Five years is a joke. For what that man's done, it's an insult to the victims. I know there will be a lot of men hurting out there at the moment. I hope they have supports in place to help them get through this."
McGrath had two earlier prison terms - three years in Christchurch in 1993 and nine months in Sydney, Australia for similar offending – the church knew this and kept supporting him. The judge was skeptical of his current claims of remorse. It was determined that McGrath had not made full admissions in 1993 and had received a two-year "discount" on his sentence for his phony “full and frank” admissions of guilt. "You were there to be their protector. In truth you were their abuser," said the judge. "They had nowhere to turn, no one to go to. It is no wonder they reacted in such a distressing way when they gave evidence."
Before the sentencing, the church had McGrath attending a sex offenders' course in the United States and another offenders program New Zealand. It is common knowledge that sexual offenders are never cured by such programs or by any type of therapy – even castration. Once a rapist, always a rapist. But the church persists in useless actions like these and just moves the “cured” offender to the next parish where he resumes raping. "I don't think you should ever be placed, or allow yourself to be placed, in the situation where you are with young people," said the judge. Crown prosecutor Kerryn Beaton said McGrath's sexual abuse had been marked by violence, threats and sometimes cruelty.
In 2008 another brother Roger Maloney, head of the Marylands School, was found guilty of seven sex abuse charges. After being extradited from Australia, he was jailed for three years for committing sex offenses. After serving 13 months of a 33-month sentence he was paroled and accepted back into the Australian branch of the Order of St John of God. A former member of the order's professional standards committee, psychologist Michelle Mulvihill, said the return of Maloney was "shocking". About taking care of Maloney, Mulvihill said, “The order will do that in secure, safe accommodation, where he will live in supervised retirement." Mulvihill doubts Maloney will be kept under observation. "There will be no supervision for him. The idea it is like some kind of lockup is just silly. The only rule will be not to talk to the media," she said.
Another brother, Raymond John Garchow was given a stay of proceedings relating to eight charges over the sexual abuse of boys because he was too ill to stand trial.
So the scenes are repeated: rape and abuse of children by clergy and cover up by the church, light sentences and support in retirement for even the worst offenders. Do we believe pope francis when he says he is doing something about the clergy abuse problem? It doesn’t ring true. Francis will meet with abuse victims – how does that help the hundreds of thousands of children and women and helpless people still being abused all over the world? As the vatican always does, there are many meetings and commissions but no results. The abuse continues.