It’s about time!
That’s how we at Horowitz Law reacted to the news that a New York bishop is telling his credibly accused clerics “Either live under supervision or live without my financial support.”
A Buffalo TV station reports that a priest, deemed by Buffalo church and lay officials ‘credibly accused’ of abuse, is fighting his boss’ ultimatum.
We solidly side with the bishop. It’s about time a Catholic prelate uses his powers to keep suspected abusers away from kids.
For decades, bishops have recruited, educated, ordained, paid, supervised and transferred priests, even or especially those who do wrong. But when their wrongdoing surfaces, bishops often feign powerlessness over these same priests. When they do this, bishops usually blame the church’s internal, archaic, ‘canon laws.’
“Once a priest, always a priest,” the claim goes, so “Church policy is that we must keep Father on the payroll, no matter what he’s done. And this is America, he’s a free man, and I don’t own a prison.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Criminal clerics can, of course, be defrocked and stripped of their collars. And while this is of course America and all citizens have rights, men voluntarily give up some of those rights when they become ordained.
Every U.S, man can marry. But not, of course, if he swears to be celibate in exchange for the many benefits of priesthood.
Every U.S, man can live where he wants. But not of course, if he swears to obey a bishop forever, again in exchange for the many benefits of priesthood.
So these claims of powerless by bishops who are, in fact, very powerful, are hollow.
For centuries, bishops have used – and many still use – their power to protect criminal clerics (by deceiving parishioners, stone-walling police, stiff-arming prosecutors, bullying victims, intimidating witnesses, discrediting whistleblowers and using their political and personal connections to extract favors and second chances from secular authorities).
So it’s high time they start using their power to protect kids.
And there’s no better place to start than by supervising known offenders.
Since the Buffalo bishop is reversing centuries of corruption, it’s no surprise that at least one child molesting cleric is crying “Foul!”
According to one news account, an accused Buffalo abuser, Fr. Samuel Venne, says he’s innocent of the allegation. He has reportedly not “had the opportunity to testify and present evidence” and “might be a victim of mistaken identity.”
Let’s unpack this.
First, is Fr. Venne claiming he sends emails to Catholic officials but never gets a reply? That he sends registered mail through the post office but it’s return “Sender refused to accept?” Not likely.
Evidence can be provided in a lot of ways, as Fr. Venne surely knows. It doesn’t have to be in a courtroom.
(Indeed, for decades victims have been forbidden to present THEIR evidence in courts all across this country. One reason for this injustice: Catholic bishops, priests, lobbyists and public relations teams have fought to install or preserve predator-friendly deadlines like the statute of limitations that block prosecutions and trials and keeps evidence under wraps.)
So it’s more than a little ironic for Fr. Venne to complain that the child sex abuse reports against him haven’t yet been litigated in a formal courtroom.
This cleric’s lawyer claims Buffalo’s bishop has a “moral obligation to provide for these (accused) priests.”
We at Horowitz Law agree. But we believe that moral obligation is secondary. The bishop’s first duty is to protect vulnerable kids from devastating crimes. And that obligation requires that church officials do all they can to keep known and suspected predators away from children.
Adults can often take care of themselves. Kids most often cannot, especially when dealing with child molesters who are often well-educated, well-spoken and well-practiced in carefully selecting already vulnerable youngsters who likely won’t tell, won’t be believed or whose parents will be unable or unwilling to pursue the trauma of a long, uncertain, stress-filled criminal prosecution.
Finally, could this be a case of ‘mistaken identity?’ Of course. Anything is possible. But go to the thorough, accurate and widely-respected website called BishopAccountability.org. Click on “Our Research” and then on “Data on the Crisis.”
You may be shocked at how rare ‘false allegations’ are.
So Buffalo Catholics should say ‘kudos’ to their bishop, and keep their kids away from Fr. Venne.