Yesterday, the Vatican announced the appointment of Monsignor Joseph Bambera as the 10th Bishop of Scranton.  I jumped right on this, I am a blogger, that is what I do.  Other people jumped on it as well.  SNAP  issued a few statements yesterday.  One of them was on Bishop-elect Bambera of Scranton.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a SNAP point of contact for the southeastern area of the Commonwealth of Virginia. (I wonder if I will continue to be a POC after I publish this post.)

David Clohessy, the National Director of SNAP, issued a statement condemning the appointment of Monsignor Bambera.   The text of that press release reads:

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sex abuse victims blast new Catholic bishop

Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790 cell, 314 645 5915 home)

Bambera is a poor choice and his promotion worries and insults us. Under oath, Bambera admitted that barely a decade ago, he refused to report a credibly accused predator priest to police, in violation of his diocese’s own child sex abuse policy.

He also admitted relying on the word of an accused priest without even questioning that cleric’s alleged victim.

This decision raises a troubling question: Is it that hard for the Vatican to find good, smart priests who have not concealed horrific crimes against kids?

As long as Catholic officials continue to promote corrupt colleagues, child sex crimes and cover ups will continue happening.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

There are some really good points here, I will be the first to stand up and say that some of the things Mr. Clohessy said are dead on. My concern is that Mr. Clohessy is burning bridges ahead of himself. Has he advanced SNAP’s cause by immediately identifying Bishop-elect Bambera as the enemy? Has SNAP even approached the Diocese of Scranton to set up a meeting with the newly appointed bishop to talk about our concerns and to seek redress for grievances? Has the new Bishop declined a meeting with survivors?

As someone who was raped by a priest in the Diocese of Scranton as a child, I have a desire to seek out effective ways to deal with the problems that still exist in the Catholic Church. I have been very frustrated by the staff of the Chancery and Bishop Martino, “The Bully of Wyoming Avenue” was no friend to survivors. I have questions that I want to have answered. I would like to know why the Diocese did not do an investigation into my “credible allegations”? If they did an investigation, they neglected to talk to me. Why wasn’t Father Gibson reported to the Vatican for canonical action? Why wasn’t he defrocked? Why weren’t the parishes he was assigned to over the years notified? Why wasn’t there an effort to identify more victims? What is the Diocese doing for survivors?

Bishop-elect Bambera has some baggage, I will stipulate to that. He had a hand in sending Robert Gibson out of the jurisdiction that could have prosecuted him.

We can’t change what has happened, we can only try to chart a better course for the future. Why don’t we try to sit down with the new bishop and have a conversation. If he is willing to work with us, why don’t we offer him the courtesy of working with him. If he shuts us down or sends Bill Genello out to talk to us as a proxy we will know where he stands.

If we change the tone of the introduction, perhaps we will be able to actually have a conversation. David may have set a tone with the new Bishop that makes it impossible, at least for now, to have a discussion.

If the purpose of leadership of SNAP is focusing solely on crying foul every time a new Bishop is appointed, we have no chance of engaging this church to make changes and seek justice. If our organization (and yes I claim part ownership of SNAP as a member, a contributor, a representative and a survivor) is going to declare the entire Catholic Church as the enemy and focus our efforts on legislation that will allow us to extract our pound of flesh from the individual diocese, lets announce that and move out to attain that goal. What I do not want to see is SNAP becoming the new PETA. That organization started out with honorable goals but has become the bad punchline of a worse joke.

SNAP has done a lot of good things for people in their 21+ years of advocating for survivors and their families. They have helped me, personally, in many ways. Maybe it is time to relook at the organizations goals, methods and activities to see if we are still on course. If not, let’s make a change. Why don’t we have a conversation?

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