Victim support group challenges Church amid priest sexual abuse scandal

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — After Columbia City priest and Bishop Dwenger chaplain Father David Huneck resigned after he was accused of sexually abusing a minor, an organization that supports victims has voiced its concerns — and it has pleaded with the Catholic Diocese to hold true to its promise of cooperating with authorities.

Perhaps the biggest concern expressed by Michael McDonnell, the communications director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), is how churches have historically handled sexual abuse scandals.

“The Church has shown that they cannot police themselves, and they have enabled these predators to continue on because they don’t want the scandal, they want to protect and preserve their reputation,” said McDonnell. “They have never cleaned up the wreckage of the past. Therefore, they’re not going to move forward, this issue is not going away.”

McDonnell said he unfortunately wasn’t surprised to hear the news of Bishop Dwenger and Saint Paul Saint Paul of the Cross Catholic Church’s Father Huneck had allegedly sexually abused a minor.

“Absolutely not shocked at all,” said McDonnell. “The church often says these are ‘issues of the past.’ I can tell you these are not issues of the past. Right now, we are averaging almost two priests per month in the United States being charged with something.”

McDonnell said although no charges have been filed yet, SNAP suspects that Father Huneck will be found guilty. The diocese has already added his name to its growing list of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor first created in 2018.

“A situation where you have a young priest and the resignation that happens so quickly, that’s a telltale sign that there is something there,” said McDonnell. “Typically, the church would just ask the individual who’s being investigated to step away from Ministry for the period of time during the investigation. Instead, his reaction was to offer his resignation.”

McDonnell added that false allegations of child sexual abuse are “extremely rare.” He also noted that the district attorney said “no charges have been filed yet,” which leads him to believe that charges will eventually be filed.

Another concern voiced by SNAP is that those who commit crimes against children rarely only have one victim, therefore the organization believes that there may be others who were hurt by Father Huneck who are still suffering alone and in silence.

Quick action by law enforcement would assure those potential victims that their outcry will be taken seriously and that their voices will be safely heard, according to the organization.

McDonnell, who was abused by two priests when he was just 11-years-old, encourages any victims to find the strength to report it.

“The longer you hold it in, the longer the pain exists,” said McDonnell. “I also encourage victims, especially if they’re older, to seek help in the form of therapy and counseling organizations such as ours.”

He also said that quick action by law enforcement in this incident would assure those potential victims that “their outcry will be taken seriously and that their voices will be safely heard.”

To report an instance of sexual abuse by a priest, click here.

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