ENTRIES RSS

Irish cardinal admits inquiries into child rapist priest were only to protect church

July 1, 2015

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/jun/25/irish-cardinal-admits-inquiries-into-child-rapist-priest-were-only-to-protect-church

* * *

I thank George Bouchey for this link.

* * *

Irish cardinal admits inquiries into child rapist priest were only to protect church

Seán Brady tells historical abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland that Catholic clerics kept investigations into Brendan Smyth secret to protect church’s ‘good name’

Cardinal Seán Brady leaves the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry at Banbridge courthouse, Co Down. ‘The scandal was kept a secret – very, very secret,’ he told the inquiry.

Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

Senior figures in Ireland’s Catholic church set up inquiries into historical sexual abuse by [sic] solely to protect the church from scandal, the former leader of Ireland’s Catholics has admitted.

Dr Seán Brady, the former primate of All Ireland, told an inquiry into historical abuse on Thursday that he and other Catholic clerics were sworn to secrecy about these tribunals so that the “good name” of the church could be protected.

Brady was giving evidence on Thursday at the historical abuse inquiry in Northern Ireland, a wideranging investigation into the abuse of children at state and church-run care homes and other institutions across the region.

The retired cleric’s evidence focused on the scandal surrounding Father Brendan Smyth, a serial child rapist who continued to abuse for decades after the church first learned that he was a paedophile.

The cardinal has faced heavy criticism for keeping secret a meeting in 1975 between senior clerics and victims of Smyth, Ireland’s most notorious paedophile priest whom the inquiry was told earlier this week possibly abused hundreds of children.

Although the Catholic hierarchy knew about Smyth’s abuse in the mid-70s they failed to report it to the police in Northern Ireland. Instead, the church moved Smyth around parishes and even hospital chaplaincies for two decades while he raped and abused children in Ireland, Britain and the US.

Asked why the 1975 meeting in County Armagh was kept secret, Brady told the inquiry, sitting at Banbridge courthouse in Co Down: “There was a shroud of secrecy and confidentiality with a view not to destroying the good name of the church.

“The scandal that somebody who was ordained to serve people should so abuse the trust for their own pleasure was appalling and it was. To offset that, the scandal was kept a secret – very, very secret. Everybody involved would be bound to secrecy too.”

Although Brady was the notetaker for the church at the meeting with two teenage victims of Smyth, he never spoke publicly about it until newspaper reports revealed his role in the encounter nearly 30 years later. The cardinal never passed on the recorded evidence the two young people gave the church leaders in 1975 to police on either side of the Irish border.

Brady told the inquiry that he was motivated by an anxiety to stop the sex offender but acknowledged that little or no consideration was given to the effects on the victims – instead the focus was on the offending priest.

The cardinal said: “I have reflected a lot on this. The reasons for such an inquiry would be to assess the impact of the scandal – the scandal being the unspeakable crime being committed against a minor.”

The evidence emerging in relation to Smyth from the inquiry, chaired by retired judge Sir Anthony Hart, has also put the Irish state in the dock for the first time. On Wednesday, it was revealed that the Garda Síochána and the Republic’s health service had been aware of allegations about the priest abusing children in Finglas, north Dublin, as far back as 1973. Neither Gardaí or health officials acted on the evidence, leaving Smyth free to abuse children until his arrest in 1994.

It is understood that victims of thepaedophile priest are now considering suing the Irish state as a result of these specific revelations. Smyth was jailed for abusing more than 100 children in both the Republic and Northern Ireland over a period of 40 years. In 1997 he died in prison of a heart attack.


St. Cloud Diocese to undergo unprecedented abuse investigation

July 1, 2015

http://www.startribune.com/judge-allows-broad-abuse-claim-to-move-forward-in-st-cloud-diocese/310954251/

* * * 

St. Cloud Diocese to undergo unprecedented abuse investigation

Judge allows “public nuisance” claim; abuse files will be opened.

By Jean Hopfensperger Star Tribune

 

JUNE 30, 2015 — 8:39PM

The St. Cloud Diocese faces the prospect of making unprecedented disclosures about priests accused of sexual misconduct, under a ruling filed Monday in Stearns County court that builds on a series of legal victories for Minnesotans claiming clergy abuse.

Judge Kris Davick-Halfen ruled that lawyers can proceed with a “public nuisance” claim against the diocese by an alleged victim of priest sex abuse — a move that allows attorneys to investigate the diocese’s records and documents on all priests who have been accused of misconduct over decades.

Four of Minnesota’s six dioceses now face similar court-ordered scrutiny. Judges have made similar rulings on the public nuisance claim in the dioceses of Ramsey, Winona and New Ulm. The motion is under advisement in a case against a priest from the Diocese of Duluth.

The St. Cloud Diocese declined to comment on the ruling. It serves 130,000 Catholics in 16 counties across central Minnesota.

“These nuisance suits put Minnesota at the forefront of a growing national movement to expose those who commit and conceal heinous crimes against children,” said David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “In no state have as many victims successfully used the nuisance argument to unearth more records of abuse and names of perpetrators.”

The legal strategy is unique to Minnesota and was pioneered by victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson. It argues that a diocese created a public nuisance by allowing priests to remain in public ministry and failing to inform the public about their past.

Minnesota’s first nuisance claim, approved in Ramsey County in 2013, resulted in depositions of top archdiocese officials, public release of tens of thousands of pages of priest files, and the release of additional names of clergy sex abusers in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, Anderson said.

The St. Cloud Diocese lawsuit was filed by a man who says he was sexually abused in the early 1970s by Rev. James Thoennes in the city of Foley. It says the diocese knew that Thoennes had abused two children in St. Cloud in the 1960s, yet assigned him to St. John’s Parish and School, where the alleged victim was a student and altar boy.

The boy, who was 11 or 12 at the time, was abused during overnight stays with Thoennes at the home of Thoennes’ mother, the complaint said.

As the lawsuit moves forward, Anderson will be seeking depositions of the current and former bishop and other top officials at the diocese.

“The implications are huge,” Anderson said. “When we started with the archdiocese, they had 33 priests on their list [of credibly accused priests]. When we ended, it was 66.”

Only the Diocese of Crookston successfully denied the public nuisance claim early on, said Anderson, adding, “I’m confident there will be another case there in the future.”

Attorneys across the country are watching how these cases unfold in Minnesota, said Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University in New York and a national expert on clergy abuse litigation. Anderson said he has introduced the nuisance claim in cases in Chicago and Long Island, N.Y.

“This is a novel strategy that is particularly valuable because it focuses on the need of the public to be warned about potential child predators,” said Hamilton.

hopfen@startribune.com 612-673-4511

 


The Next Culture War

July 1, 2015

http://www.nytimes.com/column/david-brooks

* * *

I agree with David Brooks. Christianity is not primarily about sexual issues. It focuses on, or should focus on, compassion and justice.

[Frank]

* * *

The Opinion Pages | OP-ED COLUMNIST

The Next Culture War

JUNE 30, 2015

David Brooks

Politics, culture and the social sciences.

 

Christianity is in decline in the United States. The share of Americans who describe themselves as Christians and attend church is dropping. Evangelical voters make up a smaller share of the electorate. Members of the millennial generation are detaching themselves from religious institutions in droves.

Christianity’s gravest setbacks are in the realm of values. American culture is shifting away from orthodox Christian positions on homosexuality, premarital sex, contraception, out-of-wedlock childbearing, divorce and a range of other social issues. More and more Christians feel estranged from mainstream culture. They fear they will soon be treated as social pariahs, the moral equivalent of segregationists because of their adherence to scriptural teaching on gay marriage. They fear their colleges will be decertified, their religious institutions will lose their tax-exempt status, their religious liberty will come under greater assault.

The Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision landed like some sort of culminating body blow onto this beleaguered climate. Rod Dreher, author of the truly outstanding book “How Dante Can Save Your Life,” wrote an essay in Time in which he argued that it was time for Christians to strategically retreat into their own communities, where they could keep “the light of faith burning through the surrounding cultural darkness.”

He continued: “We have to accept that we really are living in a culturally post-Christian nation. The fundamental norms Christians have long been able to depend on no longer exist.”

Most Christian commentary has opted for another strategy: fight on. Several contributors to a symposium in the journal First Things about the court’s Obergefell decision last week called the ruling the Roe v. Wade of marriage. It must be resisted and resisted again. Robert P. George, probably the most brilliant social conservative theorist in the country, argued that just as Lincoln persistently rejected the Dred Scott decision, so “we must reject and resist an egregious act of judicial usurpation.”

These conservatives are enmeshed in a decades-long culture war that has been fought over issues arising from the sexual revolution. Most of the conservative commentators I’ve read over the past few days are resolved to keep fighting that war.

I am to the left of the people I have been describing on almost all of these social issues. But I hope they regard me as a friend and admirer. And from that vantage point, I would just ask them to consider a change in course.

Consider putting aside, in the current climate, the culture war oriented around the sexual revolution.

Put aside a culture war that has alienated large parts of three generations from any consideration of religion or belief. Put aside an effort that has been a communications disaster, reducing a rich, complex and beautiful faith into a public obsession with sex. Put aside a culture war that, at least over the near term, you are destined to lose.

Consider a different culture war, one just as central to your faith and far more powerful in its persuasive witness.

We live in a society plagued by formlessness and radical flux, in which bonds, social structures and commitments are strained and frayed. Millions of kids live in stressed and fluid living arrangements. Many communities have suffered a loss of social capital. Many young people grow up in a sexual and social environment rendered barbaric because there are no common norms. Many adults hunger for meaning and goodness, but lack a spiritual vocabulary to think things through.

Social conservatives could be the people who help reweave the sinews of society. They already subscribe to a faith built on selfless love. They can serve as examples of commitment. They are equipped with a vocabulary to distinguish right from wrong, what dignifies and what demeans. They already, but in private, tithe to the poor and nurture the lonely.

The defining face of social conservatism could be this: Those are the people who go into underprivileged areas and form organizations to help nurture stable families. Those are the people who build community institutions in places where they are sparse. Those are the people who can help us think about how economic joblessness and spiritual poverty reinforce each other. Those are the people who converse with us about the transcendent in everyday life.

This culture war is more Albert Schweitzer and Dorothy Day than Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham; more Salvation Army than Moral Majority. It’s doing purposefully in public what social conservatives already do in private.

I don’t expect social conservatives to change their positions on sex, and of course fights about the definition of marriage are meant as efforts to reweave society. But the sexual revolution will not be undone anytime soon. The more practical struggle is to repair a society rendered atomized, unforgiving and inhospitable. Social conservatives are well equipped to repair this fabric, and to serve as messengers of love, dignity, commitment, communion and grace.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on June 30, 2015, on page A23 of the New York edition with the headline: The Next Culture War. 

 

 

 


Pope Francis to Visit East Harlem School During U.S. Trip

July 1, 2015

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/01/nyregion/pope-francis-united-states-visit.html?emc=edit_tnt_20150630&nlid=25623166&tntemail0=y&_r=1#story-continues-4

* * *

It’s clear that Pope Francis is a master of communication; through his words, yes, but more important, through his actions.

[Frank]

* * *

Pope Francis to Visit East Harlem School During U.S. Trip

By BENJAMIN MUELLER

JUNE 30, 2015

A center for the homeless. A school in East Harlem. A prison.

The first visit by Pope Francis to the United States, in September, will bring him as might be expected to the halls of power, but it will also put him in front of more humble audiences in three major Northeast cities. He will spend time with the homeless in Washington, immigrant children in New York and inmates in Philadelphia, according to an itinerary of his trip released by the Vatican on Tuesday.

The schedule underscores the way Francis has sought to use his papacy to focus attention on those on society’s margins. But it also offers hints of the ways a pope, unafraid of entering the political fray, might use his charisma and uncommon personal touch to challenge the American establishment on matters as varied as prison reform, environmental degradation and the ills of capitalism.

He will go from a historic address to Congress to a charity center in Washington, and from the Curran-Fromhold prison in Philadelphia to a Mass for a worldwide gathering of Catholic families in the city. The trip, which a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said was the pope’s first visit to the United States, offers him a chance to spread his popularity in a country where his unassuming leadership style is already widely admired.

And, for observers who have studied his papacy, the prospect of a pope’s sounding a clarion call for change on issues like the climate and economic inequality, in a country that he believes bears part of the blame for those problems, is tantalizing.

“I’m very interested in seeing how he’s going to make all people of different political persuasions squirm,” said Kevin Ahern, an assistant professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. “If people listen carefully to his address in Congress or other places, I’m fairly certain he says things that remind Americans of their responsibility in relation to injustice in the world.”

His address to a joint meeting of Congress on Sept. 24, a first for a pope, will be widely watched for invocations of his most recent papal encyclical, which offered a blistering critique of consumerism and irresponsible development, framing a call for action on climate change. The invitation to address Congress from the House speaker, John A. Boehner, a Republican, came as a surprise to some observers, given the pope’s emphasis on social inequality and other issues more often embraced by political liberals.

But Dr. Ahern said the pope’s decision to deliver the address, despite differences with both Democrats and Republicans on issues like same-sex marriage and immigration, reflects a willingness to offend the political establishment, as he did when the Vatican recently recognized Palestine as a state.

“There are very few figures in global politics that have that sense of freedom,” Dr. Ahern said.

Francis will also address the United Nations during a major summit meeting on sustainable development goals, 50 years after Pope Paul VI became the first pope to address the institution. That visit was credited with renewing the relationship between the Catholic Church and the United Nations.

The pope will send another symbolic message when he visits a classroom at Our Lady Queen of Angels, a school of 290 students in East Harlem, many from low-income families. He will also meet with immigrants and refugees who had been assisted by Catholic Charities, including day laborers and a group of unaccompanied minors who formed a soccer league in the Bronx. The parish connected to the school was shuttered during a restructuring in 2007, reflecting challenges facing the Catholic Church in this country, with declining attendance and dwindling numbers of priests.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, told reporters on Tuesday, “He wanted to see, and these were his words, ‘an inner-city Catholic school.’ He said, ‘I’ve heard a lot about that.’ ”

The principal, Joanne Walsh, said she learned the school had been chosen only when a reporter called her Tuesday morning. “It’s an honor and a blessing,” she said.

After celebrating Mass at Madison Square Garden and then traveling to Philadelphia, Francis is set to meet with inmates and their families at a prison in Northeast Philadelphia on Sept. 27. The visit is reminiscent of the pope’s decision on his first Holy Thursday to wash the feet of inmates at Rome’s main prison.

The prison in Philadelphia, which currently houses 2,761 inmates, is the largest in the city’s system. “He will see the facility in operation as it is,” said Mark McDonald, a spokesman for the city’s mayor, Michael A. Nutter. He will later celebrate Mass at the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families, the centerpiece of his trip.

They are not the usual destinations for a pope, but zipping from the Financial District to East Harlem, and from a prison to a major Mass, promises to give him a view of the contours of American life. The visits would also give him opportunities to use his Spanish, a recognition both of the growing Hispanic presence in the Catholic Church and, Cardinal Dolan said, of the pope’s timidity using English.

“I said to him: ‘Well, Holy Father, first of all, your English isn’t that bad. No. 2, if you speak Spanish, a third of our people are going to be jumping up and down,’ ” Cardinal Dolan said.

Reporting was contributed by Kate Pastor, Jon Hurdle, Nicholas Fandos and Elisabetta Povoledo.

 


Group claiming to turn gay men straight committed consumer fraud, N.J. jury says

July 1, 2015

http://www.nj.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/06/gay_conversion_therapy_fraud_trial_verdict.html

* * *

I thank George Bouchey for this link.

* * *

Group claiming to turn gay men straight committed consumer fraud, N.J. jury says

James Bromley delivers closing arguments for the plaintiffs in the trial Ferguson vs. JONAH. In a first-of-its-kind trial, four former clients are suing the gay conversion therapy organization, JONAH (Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing), for consumer fraud. Jersey City, NJ 6/24/15

(Alex Remnick | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

By Susan K. Livio | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 25, 2015 at 2:25 PM, updated June 25, 2015 at 8:08 PM

GAY-TO-STRAIGHT CONVERSION THERAPY

Gay conversion therapy group founder misled about success rate, lawyer says

Gay man testifies that conversion therapist blamed his mom for his sexuality

N.J. judge bars proponents of gay-to-straight conversion therapy from testifying in fraud trial

N.J. ranked among top states for protecting gay rights

N.J. gay-to-straight conversion therapy ban upheld by U.S. appeals court

All Stories |

JERSEY CITY — A New Jersey jury on Thursday found a non-profit group that provides gay-to-straight conversion therapy guilty of consumer fraud for promising clients they could overcome their sexual urges by undressing in front of other men, pummeling an effigy of their mothers, and re-enacting traumatic childhood experiences.

In the first case in the nation to put the controversial practice on trial, the jury concluded that Arthur Goldberg and Elaine Berk, the founders of Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing in Jersey City and life coach Alan Downing to whom JONAH referred patients, “engaged in unconscionable commercial practices” and misrepresented their services.

Chuck LiMandri, president of the Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund and JONAH’s lead counsel, said he would appeal the decision, which he called a blow to religious liberty.

The verdict requires JONAH and Downing to refund thousands of dollars paid by former clients Michael Ferguson, Benjamin Unger, Sheldon Bruck, Chaim Levin, and parents Jo Bruck and Bella Levin for the individual and group counseling sessions and the “journey into manhood” weekends in the woods. Downing charged $60 to $100 for group and individual sessions but shared 20 percent with JONAH to help defray its administrative costs.

After three hours of deliberations, the jury found Unger was entitled to $17,950; Chaim Levin was entitled to $650; his mother, Bella, $4,000; and Bruck’s mother, Jo, $500.

But the victory has broader implications. The national civil rights legal advocacy group Southern Poverty Law Center filed the case to take a stand against conversion therapy — a frequent target of public criticism since the passage of same-sex marriage laws and other LGBT legal protections. In 2013, New Jersey joined California by outlawing licensed therapists from providing the therapy to minors. Oregon and Washington D.C. followed. Last month, a bill was introduced in Congress would classify commercial conversion therapy and advertising that claims to change sexual orientation and gender identity as fraud.

“This is a momentous event in the history of the LGBT rights movement,” said David Dinielli, deputy director for the law center and lead attorney for the plaintiffs. “The jury agreed not only is this based on lies, but it is an unconscionable business practice.”

The legal battle is not over, Dinielli said they would be asking the court for an injunction to stop JONAH from operating. They will also seek the payment of their attorneys fees, which is permitted under the consumer fraud act.

“This is something brutal based on lies, and it needs to stop,” he said.

LiMandri contended JONAH was founded on the belief that homosexuality is a spiritual disorder caused by childhood trauma, and could be treated with two to four years of steady counseling.

“All of us can control our sexual behavior and each of us has not only the right but the obligation to decide what is right and wrong about our behavior,” LiMandri said following the verdict.

“Here’s the good news though: reality cannot be controlled by judges,” LiMandri said, referring to Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr.’s decision earlier this year to bar some of his expert witnesses. Bariso said because psychological experts had discredited the treatment, he would not allow them to testify to its validity.

“We will continue this fight for core American values, including the freedom of traditional believers to live as free and equal citizens in this great country. This case is not over,” he said.

LiMandri argued during the trial the plaintiffs weren’t entitled to call the program a failure because they had dropped out. Even then, they never requested a refund. LiMandri produced emails from Unger thanking JONAH and praised Downing, himself a man who claimed to control his gay tendencies and married a woman.

The plaintiffs only agreed to sue because they were later persuaded by a gay rights organization who was determined to make a national example of JONAH, LiMandri told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday, following the three-week trial before Superior Court Judge Peter F. Bariso Jr. in Hudson County.

“They are flat-out liars,” he said.

James Bromley, one of the plaintiff’s attorneys, accused Goldberg of lying to his clients – three orthodox Jews and a Mormon- who were desperate to conform to the expectations of their religious communities to marry and have children. They were lured by Goldberg’s false promise of the program’s two-thirds success rate, but Bromley reminded jurors Goldberg testified that estimate was based on counselors’ opinions.

The defendants claimed they never called homosexuality a mental disease but rather a spiritual disorder. Bromley read back an email Berk sent to clients that compared homosexuality to alcoholism — a disease recognized by the American Psychiatric Association.

He also reminded jurors of the tactics. Chaim Levin was made to relive the sexual abuse as a child by a relative. Downing coached Unger to blame his mother for making him gay, then gave him a tennis racket and told him to strike a pillow and imagine he was hitting her. During weekend retreats and in group sessions, clients were encouraged to undress to rid themselves of “body shame” and touch themselves to express their manhood.

He asked the jury to recall the testimony of Carol Bernstein, former president of the American Psychiatric Association, who compared conversion therapy counselors “to amateur surgeons operating on the minds of young gay men.”

“You never want to go under the knife with an amateur surgeon,” he said.

Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.

 


For the First Time Ever, Sexual Abuse Survivors Request the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis Play Outreach Video in All Parishes

June 29, 2015

http://www.andersonadvocates.com/Posts/News-or-Event/2003/Sexual-Abuse-Survivors-Request-the-Archdiocese-of-St-Paul–and–Minneapolis-Play-Outreach-Video-in-All-Parishes.aspx

* * *

These three survivors have made an extremely important decision for themselves, other victims of clergy sexual abuse, future children, and the healing of the entire community in this important 7-minute video.

[Frank]

* * *

NEWS RELEASE

June 29, 2015

 

For the First Time Ever Sexual Abuse Survivors

Request the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis

Play Outreach Video in All Parishes

 

Creditors’ Committee urges sexual abuse survivors to

come forward before the August 3, 2015, bankruptcy deadline

 

Video features three survivors, one who is publicly speaking out

for the first time, to help others

Sexual Abuse Survivors Request the Archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis Play Outreach Video in All Parishes

6/29/2015 9:09:00 AM

>

(St. Paul, MN) – The creditors’ committee in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis bankruptcy case filed a motion in federal bankruptcy court today requesting the Archdiocese play an outreach video in all 216 of its parishes. It is the first time ever in a diocesan bankruptcy that survivors/creditors have made this request. Newly appointed apostolic administrator Bernard Hebda now has an opportunity to demonstrate the Archdiocese’s commitment to helping survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

The video features three members of the bankruptcy creditors’ committee urging all sexual abuse survivors in the Archdiocese to come forward before the August 3, 2015, bankruptcy claim filing deadline. The three survivors tell their stories of trials and tribulations in their individual battles in dealing with the effects of childhood sexual abuse by members of the clergy. The survivors also discuss the feelings of hope and relief they experienced when they eventually broke their silence and came forward and disclosed their history of abuse. The three survivors in the video are:

James Keenan – (Formerly John Doe 76C) James was sexually abused by Fr. Thomas Adamson in the early 1980s at Risen Savior Church in Apple Valley, MN. He has been publicly advocating on behalf of sexual abuse survivors for several years.

Marie Mielke – (Formerly Jane Doe 20) Marie bravely came forward in January 2015 for the first time to speak publicly about her sexual abuse by Fr. Michael Keating, a priest and close family friend.

Curt Raymond – Curt is speaking publicly for the first time about his sexual abuse by Fr. Robert Kapoun. As part of this outreach video Curt has courageously stepped forward to help other sexual abuse survivors find their voice and take action before this important deadline.

“There is a fierce time urgency to reach survivors,” said Attorney Jeff Anderson. “We commend these committee members in their courage and urge all survivors to know that the time is now.”

Click here for the motion

Contact:            Jeff Anderson:  Office/651.927.7872 Cell/612.817.8665

Mike Finnegan:  Office/651.927.7872 Cell/612.205.5531

 


Twelve survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates have formed SNAP-Menno that “protects the vulnerable, heals the wounded and exposes the truth”

June 29, 2015

http://mennoworld.org/2015/06/29/news/survivors-advocates-form-a-chapter-of-anti-abuse-network/

* * *

Survivors, advocates form a chapter of anti-abuse network

Group with Catholic roots now serves people from various faith communities

Jun 29, 2015, by Mennonite World Review staff

Twelve survivors of sexual abuse and their advocates have formed an Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter of an organization that “protects the vulnerable, heals the wounded and exposes the truth.”

Leaders of the group, known as SNAP-Menno, announced its formation June 23.

SNAP stands for Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests. Founded 26 years ago to expose sexual violations by U.S. Catholic clergy, it has expanded to serve survivors of predators and pedophiles from a variety of faith communities.

SNAP-Menno “provides a safe place, entirely independent of institutional structures, for Mennonite-related survivors to seek healing,” according to a news release.

The group is convened by longtime victim-advocate Ruth E. Krall, an emerita professor at Goshen (Ind.) College, with SNAP-trained survivor-advocates Cameron Altaras, Barbra Graber and advocate Jeff Altaras.

Other founding members are Rachel Halder, Steph­anie Kreh­biel, Keith Morris, Tim Naf­zig­er, Hilary Scarsella, Lisa Schirch, Sylvia Shirk and Jennifer Yoder.

SNAP’s helpline, 1-877-SNAP HEALS, offers a confidential listening ear to anyone who has seen, suspected or suffered from sexual abuse within a faith community.

SNAP’s Survivor Support Groups, facilitated by SNAP-trained leaders, provide a place where victims and their loved ones receive anonymous aid from other survivors.

‘Deeply hidden plague’

According to notes accompanying the news release, the SNAP-Menno idea began with Krall, who was introduced to Catholic activists in 2006.

Krall “had already dedicated decades of her life to understanding and penetrating the deeply hidden plague of sexual abuse among Mennonite clans,” according to the notes.

In 2011, Krall released a three-part online book, The Elephant in God’s Living Room, about Mennonite theologian John Howard Yoder’s sexual abuse of women.

Krall sent the information on SNAP to Graber, a former professor at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., who is an associate editor of ourstoriesuntold.com, a website devoted to preventing sexualized violence among Mennonites.

As a survivor of sexual abuse, Graber was drawn to the “wealth of knowledge and hope” in the SNAP resources Krall sent her. Graber and Halder, founding editor of Our Stories Untold, attended SNAP’s 2014 conference in Chicago.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion walking into a room of several hundred survivors who had, like me, been sexually violated by the same persons who taught us about God and were members of our faith community,” Graber says in the notes.

“I knew many Mennonite survivors of sexual assault, but very few who called it that or were able to speak openly about it, much less publicly confront the church’s denial and collusion. In Chicago, I discovered passionate and wholly committed survivors of sexual trauma, of all genders, without shame, wearing placards around their necks that held pictures of themselves at the age of their abuse.

“They were taking clear, courageous action collectively and publicly. . . . I knew I had found a true network of support — something I’d sought after all my life.”

In October, Krall tested the idea of an Anabaptist-Mennonite chapter of SNAP with Thomas Doyle, a Catholic abuse-survivors’ advocate, when he consulted with Anabaptist Mennonite Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., and lectured at College Mennonite Church in Goshen.

Graber plans to start a SNAP survivor support group in Harrisonburg this fall. She and other SNAP-Menno leaders are available for anonymous and confidential support.

The SNAP-Menno chapter joins other SNAP chapters for Presbyterians, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, children of missionaries, Orthodox Christians and Boy Scouts, among others.

More information is available by contacting mennonite@SNAPnetwork.org.