Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 862 7688 home, 314 503 0003 cell)
We wish Brownsville's new bishop well, and hope that a breath of fresh air in this diocese will help heal the still fresh wounds of both clergy sex abuse victims who are suffering and Catholics who are feeling betrayed because of the church's on going child sex abuse and cover up scandal.
It's ironic that Brownsville's new bishop was named today. It was five year ago today that media reports surfaced suggesting that Brownsville's former bishop may have helped a predator priest flee the US and escape justice. (see below)
There's a tendency among Catholics, however, to assume that almost any new bishop will be better than the old one. However, wishful thinking and naive assumptions don't protect kids. Only vigilance protects kids. So we urge Brownsville Catholics to remember that children are safe when abuse suspicions and reports go to law enforcement officials, not to Catholic church officials.
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 21 years and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers.
Our website is SNAPnetwork.org Contacts: David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-503-0003)
Brownsville Bishop Says He Never Advised Priest to Flee
Associated Press - December 9, 2004
Brownsville Catholic Bishop Raymundo Pena has denied that he ever advised a priest wanted on sexual assault and abuse charges to flee the country.
The Rev. Basil Onyia fled to his native Nigeria in 2001, days before a warrant could be issued for his arrest stemming from allegations that he sexually abused a mentally retarded girl. Onyia claimed in a story in Monday's editions of The Dallas Morning News that the Brownsville bishop advised him to leave the country.
The bishop, who earlier would not confirm or deny Onyia's claim, has since responded on the diocese's Web site.
"Bishop Pena never advised Father Onyia to go back to Nigeria, and we are surprised that Father Onyia is working as a priest there," the statement said.
"It is unfortunate that he did not remain in this country to address the allegations made against him," Pena is quoted saying in the statement.
The Morning News tracked Onyia to Nigeria, where he has worked in parish ministry since disappearing from South Texas in 2001.
Hidalgo County District Attorney Rene Guerra charged Onyia but has not tried to extradite him for trial.
Onyia has said he never attacked his teenage accuser — a mentally retarded, emotionally disturbed incest victim. A witness told the newspaper that she saw the priest apologize to the accuser's family and blamed his actions on the devil.
National Outreach Director