Abuse Survivors Group Addresses Diocese Report
SCRANTON — Tim Lennon remembered the sexual abuse he suffered 30 years after it happened.
It took 20 years more for the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, to remember when a priest smothered him with a pillow and raped him.
“He put a pillow over my head. Whether I lived or died, he didn’t care,” he said.
Lennon recalled the abuse, which happened in Iowa where he lived with his Irish Catholic family of 12, during a news conference Monday in front of the Cathedral of St. Peter on Wyoming Avenue, Scranton.
“My thought was, ‘Why is God doing this to me?’” he said nearly one week after a state grand jury released a detailed report on sexual abuse at the hands of many in the Catholic Church.
His experience repeats for other survivors who, like him, remember their abuse decades after it happens, many for the first time.
“From what we see and hear every day, people are still coming forward,” he said
Lennon described the missing memory as a self-protection mechanism, one that relents years later when the threat is far enough in the past.
“I know that survivors ... are within the community who have yet to come forward. Most victims of child abuse never step forward,” he said. “This may be an opportunity for victims to come forward.”
Lennon, 71, who now lives in Tucson, Arizona, is traveling to Pennsylvania regions included in the report. He plans to speak in Allentown today.
The 1,356-page report describes sexual abuse against children by priests that spanned decades in six Pennsylvania Roman Catholic dioceses, including Scranton, and the elaborate attempts to conceal it.
The important point, Lennon said, is that survivors should know they are not alone, the abuse is not their fault and they can get better.
He called for the church to support survivors, many of whom will exist in the throes of their abuse all their lives, with addiction and trauma therapy, job training and anything else to help them recover.
In response to SNAP, spokesman William Genello said in a statement that the Scranton diocese offers support to survivors to receive therapy based on each one’s needs.
“The Diocese recognizes the trauma suffered by survivors of abuse, and is committed to helping them with the healing process, knowing that it can be difficult and lengthy,” he said.
SNAP calls for a U.S. justice department investigation into the abuse and cover-up and for the church to expel accused child abusers.
“Since 2002, there have been no men who have continued in ministry against whom credible allegations of abuse have been received,” Genello said, adding that the Vatican makes decisions on canonical status, or one’s status as a priest, for those accused.
SNAP also wants lawmakers to remove the statute of limitations on prosecuting sexual abuse, an idea that survivor advocate and clergy abuse researcher Heather Hogan-Spencer supports.
“If there’s no statute of limitations on murder, why is there a statute of limitations on sexual abuse of children?” she asked during the news conference.
The grand jury report recommends striking the statute of limitations, and there’s a stomach, at least among local lawmakers, to see such legislation through to the governor’s desk.
“It’s outrageous that children are continuing to be harmed and threatened because of this statute of limitations, which is a get-out-of-jail-free card for predators of the worst kind,” Lennon said.
Contact the writer:
• The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, recommends the Keystone Crisis Intervention Team for those affected by the grand jury’s report. Reach the KCIT at 855-767-5248. Reach SNAP at www.snapnetwork.org or 877-762-7432.
• The state attorney general’s office opened the Clergy Abuse Hotline, 888-538-8541, for those wishing to report sexual abuse.
• The Diocese of Scranton’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, 570-862-7551.