SNAP Takes Issue With Selection Of New Archbishop

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Gail Howard, a Connecticut member of SNAP, with her husband, Jason, in front of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford at Wednesday’s press conference.

The morning after Toledo Bishop Leonard P. Blair was named to take over the Hartford Archdiocese, a Connecticut representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests was on the front steps of the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in Hartford to air the organization’s concerns about the appointment.

The SNAP member, Gail Howard of Redding, said she was there with her husband Wednesday in part to draw attention to Blair’s behavior regarding the nationally publicized case of the Rev. Gerald Robinson, a Toledo diocesan priest, who ultimately was convicted in 2006 of killing a nun 26 years earlier.

SNAP has asked why Blair, bishop at the time of the trial, wasn’t more forthcoming with documents that the group says might have helped prosecute the case. The organization has also argued that Blair should have worked harder to get the priest, the Rev. Gerald Robinson, defrocked.  The organization has called on Blair to explain his actions.

Attempts to reach two spokeswomen for the Toledo Diocese were unsuccessful Wednesday.

Howard said SNAP was also asking the Hartford Archdiocese to work harder to reach out to victims of sexual abuse by priests. One way, she said, would be to have parish priests read, from the altar, a list of all offending priests who have served in the archdiocese and to ask any of their victims to report the abuse.

Howard said she strongly believes that there are many survivors of clergy sex crimes who still have not come forward. She urged them to report the abuse to law enforcement officials, not church officials.

Joining the Howards at Wednesday’s press conference was Jayne O’Donnell, a Connecticut resident and a national officer in Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic organization seeking church reforms. She said her organization supports SNAP’s efforts to address sexual abuse in the church and to support survivors of past abuse, and was also seeking “more meaningful” input into decisions in the archdiocese.

Both Gail Howard and O’Donnell said they would seek out a dialogue with Blair, who will be installed as archbishop on Dec. 16.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese could not be reached Wednesday.

Blair’s appointment also came under fire from a National Catholic Reporter blogger on Tuesday in a column  under the heading: “Not a happy day in Hartford.” The column says, in part:

“In naming Bishop Leonard Blair to become the next archbishop of Hartford, Conn., the Holy See has sent what can only be described as a counter-sign. This was a missed opportunity to send a signal to all the bishops in the United States that the Holy Father is calling for a different style of pastoral leadership in the Church.”

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