The weather was perfect and the members of the Saint Benedicts Catholic Church in Evansville were cordial. On Sunday September 2, 2007 seven advocates from SNAP and Silentlambs arrived to leaflet to members of the Saint Benedicts Church. The reason was that recently it had been disclosed that there were at least eleven victims of a now deceased Priest that had been identified by the Bishop. The leaflets stated the following:
We are sorry to intrude. . . .
on your Sunday morning, but we are worried about vulnerable children, wounded victims, and your bishop’s delay and secrecy about child sex crimes.
We are. . .
women and men who have been sexually abused by clergy who belong to a confidential, iindependent support group. We are trying to recover from this trauma and to protect others from being abused in the future.
We want. . .
no one to suffer as we have suffered and still suffer. Our goal is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable.
We hope. . .
you will help us reach out to those who’ve been molested and may still be trapped in shame, confusion and self-blame.
- Gently ask your friends and family, and fellow parishioners if they were ever sexually abused.
- Track down former church members and staff who’ve left of moved. Ask them too.
- Let them know that if they disclose to you, you’ll believe and support them.
- Talk with your children about ‘safe touch’ and speaking up if someone’s touched/touching them.
- If you have suspicions about sexual misconduct, please call 911, not church officials.
We also hope. . .you will join us in prodding Bishop Gettelfinger to be more honest and forthcoming about all abusive priests, not just Msgr. Othmar Schroeder. The bishop should use his considerable resources (website, newspaper, parish bulletins) to beg victims and witnesses to call the police and seek independent help.
He should also release information about abuse allegations promptly, not keep secrets for years while others are vulnerable or suffering.
Jesus taught us to go out into the cold, dark and rain, to find and help the lost and wounded sheep. That’s what Bishop Gettelfinger should do.
Five years ago, at their Dallas meeting, America's Catholic bishops pledged greater openness about the sexual abuse of children by priests. Yet much of what we know of these horrific crimes still comes straight from criminal prosecutions, civil lawsuits and the news media. Your bishop should be more open. Please call him and tell him this.
SNAP - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
So the message was one of assistance and a kind word to Catholic Church members in Evansville, IN. The response was favorable with many thanking us for the flyers and wishing us a good day. A few stopped to visit with positive remarks and some voiced their opinions to media. Silentlambs noticed for the most part members were respectful and positive about the leaflet as well as supportive of victims coming forward. A few did have sour looks and one or two negative remarks were heard overall, but it was quiet different from the response when Silentlambs delivered a similar flyer to a Nashville Kingdom Hall and was ordered off the property. You can watch the media coverage of this at this link, JWs Kingdom Hall Compare this to the reaction of Catholics at this link, Catholic Members Video.
Perhaps the “happiest people on earth” are not so happy after all. The day was a success with the many kind responses and a nice meal with all the advocates afterward. See pictures of the campaign at this link.
Thanks to all that supported this event and in the end hopefully more children will be protected from abuse.