Monday, September 9, 2013

SNAP Calls on Little Rock Catholic Bishop to Publicize Forthcoming Court Hearings about Abuse Cases at Local High School

As a new work week begins, I'd like to take note of something happening in my own backyard: as this recent press statement from Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) states, SNAP is calling on the Catholic bishop of Little Rock, Anthony Taylor, to make a public notice of two impending court hearings involving employees of a Catholic school in Little Rock, Mount St. Mary high school, which is sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy.

A former teacher at Mount St. Mary, Kelly Ann O'Rourke, has admitted having sexually molested a student at the school, and on 16 September, she's to appear in court on charges that she has repeatedly violated the terms of her parole by contacting the minor she molested. The following day, another former teacher at the school, Kathy Gene Griffin, is also to appear in court on charges she helped O'Rourke conceal her crimes.

SNAP is calling on Bishop Taylor to publicize the cases because there may be people who have more information about these two cases or other cases in which the sexual abuse of minors in local Catholic institutions has been covered up, and those folks need to be prodded to come forward. As David Clohessy of SNAP states, such public disclosure of information about cases of sexual abuse of minors in Catholic institutions is vitally necessary:

This is especially crucial in Catholic institutions for three reasons. First, because bishops have long ignored and concealed child sex crimes by Catholic employees. Second, because bishops have repeatedly promised to change their ways in child sex cases. And third, because child sex cases are especially difficult for police and prosecutors to pursue, because predators – and those who help them - are usually very shrewd, while their victims are often frightened or confused.

The full text of the letter SNAP has sent to Bishop Taylor calling on him to publicize these two court hearings is here. And I want to issue a statement about this appeal by SNAP to the local Catholic bishop here for three reasons:

1. I support survivors of childhood sexual abuse by Catholic officials and stand with them and organizations assisting them, including SNAP.

2. I think we have a special moral obligation to deal with the issues in our own back yards, as we make appeals for things to change in places far afield from us, too: charity begins at home.

3. I wholeheartedly agree with what SNAP has to say in its statements about the two cases in Little Rock: the only people whose interests are served by the cover-up of information about abuse of minors in Catholic institutions are Catholic officials and the perpetrators of abuse. Darkness suits those who engage in abuse, while light doesn't suit them and their interests.

I'm interested in seeing light cast on these situations, since sunlight is, as Justice Brandeis famously observed, the best disinfectant around. And Catholic institutions sorely need to be disinfected at present.

The graphic is from the Elder Abuse Exposed website. The photo of Justice Brandeis is from the Harris and Ewing Collection at Library of Congress.

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