Leaders of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests on Friday called on Cardinal Blase Cupich to rethink his proposal that metropolitan bishops should lead investigations into sexual abuse by members of the clergy.
“We believe, in order for this crisis to end, there needs to be accountability brought in from outside, independent and secular sources,” SNAP’s Executive Director, Zach Hiner, said during a press conference outside the Archdiocese of Chicago’s office at the corner of Pearson and Rush. “And given what we’ve learned about clergy sex abuse over the past six months — much less the past several decades — how could we have confidence in the metropolitan plan, which is basically more bishops policing bishops.”
At a papal summit at the Vatican last month, Cupich said lay experts — people outside of the church — were needed in every step of the investigatory process, according to the Associated Press.
However, he proposed that metropolitan bishops should conduct investigations of suspected abuse by clergy members with the help of lay experts and then forward those results to the Vatican.
“I believe that one of the reasons that this crisis has persisted throughout the years is because hierarchs remain only accountable to themselves,” Hiner added. “Conversely, I do believe that independent, secular and outside experts in law enforcement and criminal justice can help bring accountability into this church.”
In an emailed statement Friday, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Chicago stressed that Cupich’s plan “explicitly calls for the involvement of lay experts” in sex abuse investigations.
David Clohessy, the director of SNAP’s St. Louis office, emphasized the importance of letting law enforcement agencies conduct investigations into sex abuse.
“The reason we’re in this crisis — the reason bishops conceal abuse — is because they can,” Clohessy said. “These are, essentially, criminal matters. They’ve got to be turned over to professionals in law enforcement. That’s the real solution.”
Contributing: Associated Press