Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bishop Vasa gets "SNAPped"

Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, Ore., is known as a straight-shooter. He's not one to mince words and he has, at times, tweaked the USCCB's policies on aspects of the sex abuse crisis. So when he decided to bring in a priest from the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston who had been accused of sexual abuse and to give him his own parish, I was not surprised.

SNAP, however -- and predictably -- wasn't happy.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) issued a statement protesting the assignment of the Rev. Richard Edelin to St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church in John Day.
The statement disclosed that Edelin was accused of sexually abusing a teenage girl in Houston in the early 1980s. It also said that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston paid $5,000 to the accuser in 1996 and issued an apology.
A church review board cleared Edelin to return to the ministry, but David Clohessy, national director of the network, defended the decision to draw public attention to the accusation.
"If we have to err, we have to err on the side of children's safety," Clohessy said.

The accusation, however, was never substantiated -- not by the diocese, not by the diocesan review board, not by the police. The review board in Baker also reviewed his case and found nothing to be alarmed about. So, according to Clohessy, if a priest is accused, he is automatically guilty.

Wait, scratch that. "We're not presuming he's guilty. We're simply saying that Catholics need to know and deserve to know his past."

Oh, O.K., I get it now. If Mr. Clohessy's past includes an accusation of theft, rape or murder that wasn't true, he would want that to be known to every potential employer and neighbor he has, right? I thought not.

Bishop Vasa pointed this out: "Article five of the Charter states: 'When an allegation has proved to be unfounded, every step will be taken to restore the good name of the priest or deacon.'" Apparently, though, that part of the Charter doesn't have to be taken as seriously as the other parts.

I recently wrote an e-mail to Mr. Clohessy and Barbara Blaine asking them to change the status they had given to Bishop Paul Dudley on the (false) accusation against him in their tally of bishops who have been accused of abuse. The original entry made it appear as if he had resigned under pressure from the accusation, when in fact he had resigned long before the accusation because of age, besides the fact that he was cleared of the charges. Fortunately, they took it seriously and made the change to reflect that he had been cleared of charges.

Whether or not they truly believe that he was never guilty in the first place is another issue.

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