All Sexual Abuse Roads Still Lead To Rome

Activist Mary Dispenza with a sign that says We Are Not Going Away in several languages..

It’s becoming an annual trek

At last year’s summit in Rome, Pope Francis called for an “all-out battle” on clergy abuse. Now, on the anniversary of that summit, I’m heading back to the Vatican to demand he get that battle started, not just for clergy abuse, but for nun abuse also.

I’ll be joining Tim Lennon, President of SNAP, (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) and SNAP leaders Kevin Bourgeois from New Orleans, Brenda Brunelle from Canada, and Shaun Dougherty of Pennsylvania, for five days of press conferences, demonstrations, and events to bring hope to survivors, encourage the public to get involved with sexual abuse prevention and serve notice to Church officials that this issue isn’t just going to disappear.

My personal goal is to be strong voice for those whose voices were taken away by the trauma of priest and nun abuse, and to speak truth to power.

Why another trip to Rome?

“In the past twelve months, we have seen the Pope’s “all-out battle” fought by attorneys general, journalists, survivors and advocates. But we have seen precious little reform from church officials themselves.”

Tim Lennon, President of SNAP

There’s been much talk from Church officials about the need to do better dealing with abusive priests. But we haven’t seen as much action as we’d expected.

So once again, SNAP leaders from across the US and Canada will descend upon Rome on February 18th. We are out to prove that as long as priest abuse hasn’t gone away, we are not going away. One highly publicized summit was not enough to address this systemic, worldwide crime.

We are not relying on promises from church officials anymore. We survivors and our allies in government and media are going to force the Church to change — and we are!

Here’s what we want

We want the Pope to up his game. We’ve seen renewed efforts from law enforcement officials across the world in tackling this issue. It troubles us that our church is not equally interested in protecting the vulnerable.

We want a worldwide zero-tolerance policy in the ranks of the clergy, as well as religious orders. Pope Francis must order every bishop, archbishop, and cardinal to turn over all files related to clergy abuse to local police and prosecutors.

We also want a system to track and monitor priests that have been removed for sexual abuse. We want an app for that.

Plans for the week in Rome

During our week in Rome, our events will demand action from church officials, remind the public of their role in abuse prevention, and bring messages of hope and healing to survivors everywhere.

As usual, our aim is to bring this issue to the mainstream, praise the work that has been done by secular law enforcement officials and apply ever more pressure to Church hierarchy to do whatever is required to wipe out this scourge.

You know, I don’t really mind visiting Rome every year, but I’d like to go for a nicer reason than that we constantly have to hold the Pope’s feet to the fire.

For more information on SNAP plans for Rome, see To send a message of support, contact Mary Dispenza, SNAP Leader and contact for Those Abused by Nuns, +1 425-941-6001. Contact SNAP President Tim Lennon at, +1 415-312-5820

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