The former Iowan who pushed the Attorney General to investigate cases of priest abuse says the report just released by the AG is another positive step forward.
Tim Lennon was living in Sioux City when he got involved in the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP. “I think it’s the voice of survivors who have risen up. I was one of many who called for reform and change and investigation — because too many people had been harmed,” Lennon says.
Lennon says things are much different now than they used to be. “Twenty years ago every victim of sexual abuse, especially child sexual abuse, would come forward as an individual. Now we come forward as organizations, as a movement,” Lennon says. “And I think politicians, society, and culture have come to realize how much sexual abuse there is in society and has taken action.”
He says this report and Iowa’s recent change in the law that lifts the statute of limitations on child sex abuse charges are examples of the progress made. “These are all wonderful, wonderful steps — not only to give justice to people who have been harmed — but also serves to prevent future harm by taking strong action,” he says. Lennon says changing the inaction on abuse to action is key.
“By taking aggressive action, you remove predators, you provide more prevention so that not another child is harmed, and that is incredibly important,” he says. “There’s justice for the past — but also prevention for the future.”
The four Catholic bishops in Iowa released a statement saying the Attorney General’s report will be studied for suggestions on how the Catholic Church’s efforts might be improved. Lennon says the church has not stepped up as others have. “I think the only reason that any reform is made within the church is that they’ve been compelled to by outside forces,” Lennon says.
He cites the Boston newspaper series that exposed abuse as an example. He says the abuse was acknowledged because the church was compelled to from the outside, and says the same thing happened when a Pennsylvania grand jury found 300 cases and he says that has now compelled most of the diocese to release the names of predators. Lennon says he was abused when he was 12, but it took until he was 63 to take action.
Lennon tells those who may not have come forward that they are not alone and can call SNAP to get help. “And also there’s help available through your local rape crisis center or any kind of coalition against sexual abuse will provide help. To know that they are not alone, that there is help and you can get better,” Lennon says.
SNAP responded to the AG’s report calling for the Iowa Catholic Conference to take immediate action on predatory priests, first by sharing a complete look at clergy abuse in Iowa with parents and parish communities.