David Clohessy & Barbara Dorris: Springfield’s new bishop must reach out to clergy abuse victims

Last modified: Tuesday, June 24, 2014

SPRINGFIELD — We take strong issue with comments on abuse made last week by the new head of the Springfield diocese.

For several years, Bishop Thomas Rozanski, previously an auxiliary bishop with the the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, has served on the Committee on the Protection of Children and Youth overseen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

That body has been virtually worthless. It has done little or nothing about the absolute bare minimum and has focused far more on public relations than abuse prevention.

Last week, as media in the Valley reported, Bishop Rozanski claimed that being on the panel “has taught me first of all about the importance of reaching out to victims and survivors acknowledging their pain.”

This is disingenuous. Bishops keep pretending that they didn’t “understand” abuse until recently and that their carefully crafted cover-ups were somehow well-intentioned “mistakes” when they were, we believe, deliberate decisions to protect church officials instead of innocent children.

We hope Bishop Rozanski proves us wrong by promptly posting not just names, but photos, whereabouts and work histories of every child molesting cleric who is or has been in his diocese — whether living or dead, whether diocesan or religious order, whether proven, admitted or credibly accused.

We write on behalf of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 18,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops and Protestant ministers.

For more information, visit snapnetwork.org.

If Bishop Rozanski has truly learned about “the importance of reaching out to victims,” we urge him to go, next weekend, to every parish where the Rev. Charles J. Sullivan worked within the Springfield diocese and beg victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to contact police.

Rev. Sullivan was publicly accused three years ago, the allegations were deemed credible and church officials said he would live a “life of prayer and penance.”

But according to the website bishopaccountability.org, his whereabouts are unknown. So he’s likely living among unsuspecting neighbors, perhaps volunteering at a school chess club in the afternoons or babysitting his relatives’ kids in the evening.

It’s possible he might be criminally charged, convicted and imprisoned, if the bishop would show — by his deeds, not his words — that he does indeed “understand the importance of outreach.”

David Clohessy is the executive director of the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Barbara Dorris is its outreach coordinator. They live in St. Louis.


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