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Activists Call For Justice And Reform From Catholic Church, Lawmakers

In the wake of a grand jury report released last week alleging the abuse of more than 1,000 children at the hands of Pennsylvania priests, abuse survivors want justice and reform.

At a news conference on Monday, members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on the church, lawmakers, and law enforcement to do more to prevent childhood sex abuse and to help adult survivors.

Representatives of SNAP said police need to continue to urge the public to come forward with information about abuse and cover-ups. They’re asking prosecutors to be more assertive in the pursuit of those who commit or conceal sex crimes.

The group said lawmakers should reform the state’s statute of limitations, which prevents many of the accused abuser priests named in the grand jury report from facing charges.

Within the church, SNAP said it’s time for Catholics to get angry.

“We want Bishop Zubik to put copies of the grand jury report in the back of churches so that every Catholic has the opportunity to read it and learn how their church officials have been handling child sex crimes,” said Judy Jones of SNAP.

Jones said the church needs to hold accountable those involved in covering up the abuse, including Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik.

Last week SNAP called for a boycott on all donations to the diocese until Zubik steps down.

At the news conference last week, Zubik said there was no effort within the diocese to cover up childhood sex abuse, despite evidence to the contrary. The report accused Zubik of not reporting credible allegations of abuse, and assisting in the relocation of accused priests to other parishes.

After the event Monday, Father Ron Lengwin approached the activists on behalf of the Pittsburgh Diocese.

“I’ve come out here to welcome you to speak with the Bishop,” said Lengwin.

“We don’t need words, we need actions,” said Francis Samber.  She said her brother was raped by a priest as a boy, and committed suicide in 2010.

Lengwin’s invitation for members of SNAP to speak with Zubik was refused because the media were not allowed to join inside.

Samber said she’s disappointed with the lack of transparency.

“And now they stand before us saying it’s the Christian thing to do to speak to us. ‘They feel our heartfelt sorrow.’ But it’s a complete joke, they’re empty words,” said Samber. “Are they doing anything about it? No.”

Other members of SNAP told Lengwin they’re tired of secrecy, and Zubik should come out and speak for himself.

“I’m disappointed because conversation can be important,” said Lengwin.

“This is so hypocritical, said Francis Samber. “I’m just disgusted. I cannot believe that he has the audacity to stand out here and says he cares.”

In the wake of the report Zubik reiterated that the church has learned from the past, and has implemented training for church staffers and volunteers to prevent abuse.