Letter - Failure of notification places children and teens at risk
July 30, 2005
To the responsible parties of St. Peter Villa Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Target House, Memphis Catholic High School, Memphis Catholic Middle School, St. Peter Manor.
A breach of policy by the Catholic Diocese of Memphis has put visitors, residents, staff, family members, students, parents and others associated with the above institutions at risk. This occurred between 2002 and 2004. Our organization is alerting you to this negligence on the part of the Memphis Diocese and is asking you to stand with us in our outrage at this unconscionable lack of appropriate safety measures.
Father William Kantner, a priest assigned to St. Peter Villa had an allegation of sexual abuse filed against him through the Memphis diocese. Kantner, however, remained in ministry at St. Peter Villa as sacramental minister and resided close to the area of the institutions mentioned above. Was the public alerted to the allegation? Was due diligence exercised by the Catholic diocese for the protection of children and teens?
Failing to remove William Kantner from ministry when the allegation was filed and failing to announce to the people of Memphis that this allegation had been filed is a breach of the policy of the Catholic Diocese as well as a breach of trust with the people. At the June 2002 Dallas Conference of Bishops, the Charter for the Protection of Children was ratified which agreed that the strictest standards would be applied when allegations of sexual misconduct were brought forward. This was not done in the case of William Kantner who was, in effect, allowed in close proximity to children and teens while no one was notified, no one was alerted to possible danger. We believe that the public has a reasonable expectation that they will be notified when allegations of sexual abuse have been brought against clergy.
Last February, after more than two years, the Diocesan Review Board declared Kantner less likely than not to be guilty of abuse. To survivors of clergy sexual abuse, the church and its boards making a decision like this is tantamount to the fox guarding the hen house. What other allegations, like that of William Kantner, have been shrouded in silence and secrecy? How can the truth be discerned if secrecy is the norm? Which other children and teens have been put at risk by the diocese of Memphis?
It is our contention that Bishop Terry Steib of Memphis and the Diocesan Review Board acted improperly and recklessly in not taking quick and decisive action. Lack of notification of officials at the institutions involved and lack of notification of the public at large is of grave concern. If they hid this, what else is the diocese of Memphis hiding and who may be in danger?
Memphis SNAP members and state SNAP leaders will hold a press conference soon in Memphis regarding this issue. We welcome your input in this process. We intend to discuss the issues above as well as other issues of concern for the protection of children.
SNAPs goal is the support of victims of clergy abuse. We have self-help support groups for these survivors. We also address public issues as we are doing today if this furthers the protection of children, teens, and vulnerable adults. If you would like to have your organization participate in this press conference, please let me know. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me.
Susan Vance, State Director, SNAP of Tennessee