A steady, cold rain could not stop the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) from conducting its latest demonstration against the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington on Monday, Nov. 30 with regard to the sex abuse scandal.
A steady, cold rain could not stop the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) from conducting its latest demonstration against the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington on Monday, Nov. 30 over the sex abuse scandal.
SNAP gathered in front of the Chancery Building – which houses the office of Bishop W. Fran Malooly – to denounce the diocese’s decision to hire a Los Angeles-based public relations firm to help it through the Chapter 11 bankruptcy the diocese sought as faces numerous sexual abuse cases.
SNAP also demonstrated in front of the diocesan office in Forty Acres to protest the diocese’s effort to continue paying for the retirement benefits of six confirmed pedophile priests as it undergoes Chapter 11 proceedings, according to SNAP Director Judy Miller
Miller, of Wilmington, called the diocese’s latest moves “scorched earth legal tactics” in the way it is handling the sex abuse scandal, in which accusers say priests accused of sexually abusing boys and girls were often transferred to other parishes.
SNAP and attorneys for the victims have decried the bankruptcy proceedings as the diocese’s latest effort to cover up more dark secrets within the bowels of the church.
“It is immoral for Bishop Malooly to cry poverty, then hire a P.R. firm,” Miller said.
Diocese of Wilmington spokesman Bob Krebs confirmed shortly after the gathering of half a dozen people dispersed that the diocese hired a public relations firm because it needs guidance, though he did not know for what dollar amount offhand.
“We’ve also hired attorneys and business advisors. It’s all part of the deal,” he said. “We’re new to all this.”
Krebs once again turned aside criticism from SNAP that bankruptcy proceedings are intended to keep information secret. As Bishop W. Fran Malooly said last month, the aim of bankruptcy proceedings is to ensure all victims of sexual abuse by clergy are adequately compensated – before all of the diocese’s assets are consumed.
The diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection Oct. 18 after failing to reach a settlement with eight victims whose lawsuits had been scheduled for trial. There are 142 claimants in all, but the rest had not been scheduled for trial at the time of the filing.
Malooly had also said that the diocese is on its own as it deals with suits from claimants, and cannot rely on the individual assets of each of the member parishes nor that of the Vatican in Rome.
Miller said it is no a surprise that the diocese has argued that it is obligated to pay for the retirement benefits of confirmed abusers since it has been trying “to protect these criminals.”
“We’re asking Bishop Malooly to do for the wounded what the diocese is doing for the molesters,” she said. “They have their own P.R. official – Bob Krebs, their own newspaper and a rapt audience every Sunday, yet they spend more than $100,000 on a P.R. firm. Telling the truth is free.”
Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, of New Castle, was among the protesters in front of the Diocese of Wilmington’s Chancery Building. While she has gotten flack for her support, the retired nun and teacher – including 10 years at St. Elizabeth High– adamantly demonstrates her support for victims in both Wilmington and her native Philadelphia.
To Turlish, the abuse of children and the ensuing cover up represent a monumental breakdown in the power structure of the church.
“Parents were not warned and they abused again,” she said. “It is a corporate failure, a corporate sin. The church will survive in the people of God. The church – as it’s presently structured – maybe it shouldn’t.”
SNAP is calling on Catholics to withhold donations to the church until officials stop spending money “on cover-ups and P.R. spin,” Miller said. The organization also is calling on the bankruptcy judge to make public all secret documents, settlements and bankruptcy hearings.
At 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1 in the Doubletree Hotel downtown, a judge is scheduled to hear a public hearing at which creditors – including sex abuse victims – will be able to ask questions of diocesan Vicar General Msgr. J. Thomas Cini.