SNAP’s Casteix Misleads Public on Vatican Letters

Joelle Casteix, the snippy "Southwest Director" of SNAP (Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests), was interviewed during the 4pm hour of the February 24, 2011, episode of the John & Ken Show on KFI 640 AM radio in Los Angeles. At one point of the show, Casteix stated:

"We have two letters that have been exposed in the past year from the Vatican – to a bishop in Tucson, Arizona, and a bishop on the East Coast – and in both of those cases the Vatican told Church officials not to report sex abusers to the cops. One was in the 80's, and one was in the 90's."

The issue: Did the Vatican really write two letters telling Church officials "not to report sex abusers to the cops"? In one simple word: No.

Casteix's claim is completely and unequivocally untrue.

Let's take one letter at a time:

1. The Tucson letter: It is from 1984. It involves the case of a priest who was found to be repeatedly drunk and having relationships with adult women. In other words, there was no secular crime alleged or implied at all. There is no reason to believe this wayward priest broke any secular law or to think that his case concerned "the cops."

Although the letter states that the priest's personnel file should not be surrendered to "any [civil] lawyer or judge," the letter says absolutely nothing about not reporting "sex abusers to the cops." In fact, the words "police," "law enforcement," or "cops" do not appear anywhere in the letter.

An important side note: The letter clearly states that the wayward priest's faculties "should have been terminated long ago."

2. "East coast" letter: I could just end this one here by saying there is no "east coast" letter. I will just assume she is referring to the much-publicized (and debunked) 1997 Vatican letter to a bishop in Ireland. The awful Laurie Goodstein at the New York Times originally trumpeted this flimsy story.

I already wrote an article about this case a while back (January 2011): "Hit-and-Run: Media Slams Vatican With Bogus 'Smoking Gun' Story."

From the get-go, several observers cited grave problems with Goodstein's piece. The National Catholic Register's Jimmy Akin noted "significant errors in [Goodstein’s] reporting."

Even the liberal/dissident National Catholic Reporter does not even stand with Joelle on this one.

The Reporter's John Allen noted that "a main concern of the letter is to ensure that when a bishop takes action against an abuser, his edict should stick – suggesting a fairly tough line on abuse, rather than a drive to cover it up."

In other words, the Vatican letter states the exact opposite of what Casteix claims. D’oh!

SNAP’s Joelle Casteix clearly deceived the audience with her claim.