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Victims Group Criticizes Choice for New Camden Bishop

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests responds to the appointment of Bishop Dennis Sullivan to head the Diocese of Camden.

A group of sexual abuse survivors slammed the Catholic Church's choice of New York Auxiliary Bishop Dennis Sullivan to become the new Bishop of Camden, criticizing Sullivan's record and the Archdiocese of New York's record on alleged abuse by clergy.

"He’s a member of the completely ineffectual U.S. bishops sex abuse panel which functions largely as window dressing for a public relations campaign masquerading as reform," said Barbara Dorris, outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which has a membership of 12,000 nationwide. "He’s part of the New York archdiocese which, in recent years, has had a disappointing and deceptive track record in clergy sex abuse and cover up cases."

"As he has repeatedly in the past, Pope Benedict is again promoting a cleric who shows no signs whatsoever of acting more responsibly with the safety of kids."

Barbara Polesir, the director of South Jersey SNAP, issued the following response to Bishop Joseph Galante's retirement and Sullivan's elevation to bishop:

Originally, we had high hopes when Bishop Joseph Galante became Camden’s bishop. Those hopes have largely been dashed.

While an auxiliary bishop in Texas, Bishop Galante publicly challenged a corrupt colleague, Bishop Charles Grahmann, about his mishandling of a child sex case against a Dallas cleric. Such “fraternal correction” has been sorely lacking through the course of the clergy abuse crisis throughout the church. We praised Bishop Galante for his courage.

But he has done little while in Camden to change the disturbing status quo regarding clergy sex crimes and cover ups. Some 30 US bishops have posted on their websites the names of predator priests. Bishop Galante, however, is not one of them. He’s basically done little or nothing in recent years to distinguish himself from the majority of his peers who continue to act recklessly, secretively and callously in child sex cases.

We hope his successor will show more courage and compassion. We hope he’ll post the names, photos and whereabouts of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics on his website (like Philadelphia’s then-Cardinal Justin Rigali has done). We hope he’ll aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes in Camden. We hope he’ll especially warn parishioners and the public about:

  • Father Joseph E. Shannon, who was sued a year ago for child sexual abuse, and
  • Father David Givey of the Philadelphia archdiocese, who now apparently lives in Somers Point NJ. (Bishop Galante has refused to do this.)

Regardless of who replaces Bishop Galante, it’s still crucial that people with knowledge or suspicions about clergy sex crimes continue to report to secular officials, not church officials. That’s the best way to both protect the vulnerable and heal the wounded.

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