Clergy abuse victims: Make immediate reforms at Vatican summit

Pope Francis attends the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations agency, in Rome.
Photo credit PA Images/Sipa USA
By KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Victims of clergy abuse and their advocates are requesting that Pope Francis consider their list of  "must-take" actions for the unprecedented summit in Rome, beginning on Thursday, focusing on the crisis in the Roman Catholic Church.

Michael McDonnell, who is the leader of the Philadelphia chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is hoping the pope pushes more than 100 top Catholic bishops from around the globe to take immediate action -- "to demonstrate that he understands how deep the crisis is, and how far down the hallways of the Vatican it stretches."

He says on the first day of the summit, "any prelate who has covered up or minimized cases of abuse should be fired."

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"Their best thinking has got them where they're at today. How can we trust — as faithful Catholics, many of us — how can we trust, as a public, that the Catholic Church can police themselves? We can't," McDonnell said.

McDonnell says he was abused by two priests over a two-year period, starting when he was 11, dating back to the early 1980s. He says one of his abuser priests admitted to church officials his misdeeds.

"There were two other boys that he had abused that same summer," he said. 

He says "there were three high-ranking church officials in the room for that interview."

"The diocese simply handed him another parish," he said. "In fact, they handed him six more parishes, up until he was defrocked in 2003."

.@SNAPNetwork sent @Pontifex a request for "must take" actions during the summit, including "firing any prelate in attendance who has covered up or minimized cases of clergy abuse."

— Steve Tawa (@stevetawa) February 18, 2019

McDonnell also says rather than go through the church hierarcy to report cases of suspected abuse, priests, deacons, bishops and other church staff should first go directly to their local law enforcement officials. Then, he says, the reports should be routed to church officials. 

McDonnell has long maintained "no one knew more, and no one did less, than these bishops, auxiliary bishops and archbishops." 

SNAP says the head of each nation’s conference of Catholic bishops should have the authority to fire any prelate who has failed to report allegations to police and remove abusers from their positions.

"We also want to be reassured that there will be no further coverups," McDonnell said, "so that in 15 years, we're not having this same conversation again."

SNAP representatives will be attending meetings, vigils, marches, press availablities, events on St. Peter's Square, and in their hotel — even holding a wrap up "report card" event — based on actions taken during the summit.

Pennsylvania also will have a delegation in Rome, including State Rep. Mark Rozzi (D-Berks), who has been pushing statute of limitations reforms. Rozzi says he personally understands the anguish of victims, because his priest sexually abused him when he was 13 years old.