The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Sniezyk seeks to clarify remarks

Flatly condemns abuse by priests

By Globe Staff, 2/24/2004

Denying that sexual misconduct by priests was ever acceptable, Monsignor Richard S. Sniezyk apologized yesterday for comments he made during the weekend that suggested otherwise.

Sniezyk, who was appointed temporary leader of the Diocese of Springfield after its bishop resigned amid sexual abuse allegations, said in an interview with the Globe on Sunday the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church stemmed from a belief among some priests during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s that sex with young men was OK.

Yesterday, Sniezyk sought to clarify the comments. "Let me be clear and unequivocal, I did not mean to suggest, nor do I believe to be true, that sexual misconduct in any context is ever acceptable. Clearly, those who have preyed upon our children have justified their actions in many different ways, including the delusion that they, the abusers, were not harming the children, when in fact they were causing great and long-term harm.

"They clearly benefited from a society that set the priesthood apart and allowed abusers to go unchallenged in a behavior, which today clearly would be recognized as wrong," Sniezyk said in a statement. "While it is important to note how abusers acted and how they may have escaped notice, it is more important to condemn the result of their actions -- the terrible and sickening violation of children and the long-term horrific results."

Sniezyk added that most priests have never violated their vows.

"I am deeply sorry if my comments, as well intended as they may have been to present possible answers to the questions I have been asked, caused distress to the faithful or unnecessary and unfounded suspicion of the priests of my diocese. In fact, as I have specifically stated the priesthood has become more sensitive to these issues in the last 20 years as we have learned more about the causes and effects of sexual abuse of minors.

"Together we remain committed to coming to grips with the abuse crisis and then, with these hard lessons learned, move ahead and re-earn the trust of the faithful, especially victims and their families."

Sniezyk is expected to lead the Springfield Diocese until the Vatican chooses a new bishop to replace Thomas L. Dupre. On Feb. 11, Dupre resigned after being confronted with allegations that he had sexually abused two boys in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

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