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SNAP says Belleville treats abuse victims best.

CHICAGO -- The Belleville, Ill., diocese was rated "the most sensitive toward victims" by leaders of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

At a Dec. 28 news conference outside the Chicago archdiocesan offices, Barbara Blaine, SNAP president and founder, praised Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory for removing priests publicly, holding question-and-answer sessions with parishioners, providing therapy for victims, cooperating with the media and not countersuing victims.

In less than two years, 11 Belleville priests (about 10 percent of its clergy) have left the diocese because of molestation charges.

Blaine also announced that SNAP was sending letters to the bishops of every diocese in the country urging them to reveal the names of all priests who have been found guilty in a criminal or civil proceeding or who have been removed because of a founded allegation of abuse.

The organization is compiling a list of priest abusers, she said, but many dioceses still persist in shielding the guilty. "If bishops let us know who these sexual predators are," Blaine said, "we in turn can warn potential victims and stop further harm."

SNAP is also seeking from each diocese a copy of its policy on sexual abuse.

SNAP spokesman Peter Isely said the organization thinks that about 10 percent of the clergy in almost every diocese are abusers and must be removed before the faithful can regain full trust in the church. Gregory, he said, deserves praise because he has taken action on his own, without help from his national leadership.

In the letter delivered to Chicago's Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, Blaine said, "We strongly suggest that you emulate the example of the Diocese of Belleville.... We are simply asking for names that are essentially public record already. ... We are not asking you to violate confidentiality or to spread rumors."

Wilton Gregory, formerly a Chicago priest and auxiliary bishop, succeeded James Keleher (also a former Chicago priest) as bishop of Belleville in January 1994. Keleher became archbishop of Kansas City, Kan.

Belleville, a largely rural diocese in southern Illinois with slightly more than 100 active priests, had been rocked with reports of widespread clergy abuse.

Gregory's swift action, SNAP said, has not solved all the problems but indicates what can occur when there is a genuine commitment to reform.

In November, SNAP, a national group claiming 2,100 members, said the six "worst dioceses" in stemming clergy abuse are Chicago; Milwaukee; Santa Fe, N.M.; Providence, R.I.; Camden, N.J.; and Kansas City, Mo. Blaine said the Chicago archdiocese had not followed its own policies on abuse and, by countersuing two families who had accused a priest, had "created an environment where survivors are not safe to come forward."

A Chicago archdiocesan spokesman said he knew of no such countersuit filed by the archdiocese, though accused persons may have done so individually.

In a prepared statement, the Chicago archdiocese also expressed "surprise" at SNAP's letter, especially the request for a copy of its current policy. It said Bernardin had sought input from SNAP representatives in formulating the clerical abuse guidelines, which have been in effect since 1993 and, it said, have provided a framework for other dioceses.
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Title Annotation:Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests rates Belleville, IL, Diocese most senstive; rates Chicago, IL lowest
Author:McClory, Robert
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Jan 13, 1995
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