Good afternoon. My name is Kipp McIntyre. I am here today with my wife, Stephanie, who is a nationally recognized victim of clergy sexual abuse.
We are joined by:
- Siobhan O’Connor, whistleblower, who played a critical role in revealing the cover-up in the Diocese of Buffalo, NY
- MaryJo Briggs, a victim of clergy abuse and representative of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests from Columbia, SC.
- Barry Covert – A Victim's advocate and attorney from New York State: and,
- Roger McCrary – A South Carolina Victim's advocate and trauma counselor
We will also hear a statement from:
- Dr. Robert Hoatson, president of Road to Recovery in New Jersey, ex-priest, and fellow clergy abuse victim, who could not be here today due to a prior commitment.
This past August, Stephanie and I had just arrived in Western New York to visit her terminally ill father when we learned that our sitting Bishop, Robert Guglielmone, of the Diocese of Charleston, was named in a lawsuit by a man who claims that he was sexually abused by the bishop in Long Island, NY when he was only 8 yrs. old.
Fr. Jay Scott Newman, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and dean over parishes in the upstate, immediately took control of the narrative by publishing a scandalous homily and follow-up letter in which he exonerated Guglielmone while shaming and defaming the victim.
Incidentally, it was only upon the filing of the New York State suit through the recently passed, Child’s Victims Act, that we learned that Guglielmone had been under a Vatican ordered investigation of this allegation since August of 2018. To our astonishment, this investigation had been kept secret for more than a year while the bishop continued to preside, unaffected, over Catholics in the entire state of South Carolina. Even more disturbing, Bishop Guglielmone held “town hall meetings” across the state to discuss the clergy sexual abuse crisis, while he, himself, was under canonical investigation for sexual abuse of a minor. Certainly, this is something that victims, their families, and communities should have been made aware of.
When a priest is credibly accused, meaning the accusation is not “manifestly false or frivolous”, he is immediately placed on administrative leave until an investigation and determination are made. The fact that Guglielmone continues to remain an active sitting bishop while under investigation for sexual abuse of a child, is beyond scandalous and dangerous. It is difficult to imagine any other organization in the world that would turn a blind eye to something so serious.
On August 16, 2019, the Greenville News ran the headline, “SC Catholic priests and diocese silent on how they’ll handle allegations on Sunday”. In this article, a spokeswoman from the Diocese of Charleston pointed to Fr. Newman’s published homily as a “good source of public guidance or pastoral message”.
Knowing this message was going to cause my wife great distress while we were in New York, I asked her to avoid reading or listening to Fr. Newman’s words until we could get back home to South Carolina. Thankfully, she waited, because when she finally did hear his callous messages, she lost every last bit of hope and fell into deep despair. As the husband of an abuse survivor, witnessing this was heartbreaking.
It has now been six months of deafening silence. Although South Carolina Catholics may think we have dodged the bullet, we have not. With nobody challenging the sole opinion we've been served by Fr. Newman, who seemingly speaks for all of us and all of our priests, we are a community that is unwilling to face any truth that is too ugly. It is much easier to remain silent than to disturb the status quo.
I want to be very clear that we are not here to determine the validity of this case against the bishop. However, I believe we can rely on the Catholic Church’s “John Jay Report”, which states that just 1.5% of accusations against clergy are patently false, which means there's a 98.5% chance that this claim against the bishop is true. Let me repeat that..... there is a 98.5% chance that this claim against the bishop is true according to the Catholic Church's study of its clergy abuse crisis.
We stand with victims. Those who are part of the 1.5% of false claims are not victims. Until this case has been decided, all involved parties are innocent. They need our support, not the undeserved condemnation nor vindication we heard in Fr. Newman’s attack on this victim.
Today, you will hear the term victim-survivor. The reason for this distinction is that those abused by priests find themselves in fluctuation between the two. Some days my wife is a victim. Some days she is a survivor. Today she is an advocate and I love her very much for the courage and strength it takes to stand in front of you here this afternoon.
Statements and links to media will be provided on our website at RecoveringSurvivors.com.