Criminal Justice

SNAP: Ex-Gary Priest Is Confirmed Abuser

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November 5, 2014 — SNAP —  Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests — says a Roman Catholic priest who once worked in the Gary Diocese has been exposed for the first time as a credibly-accused child molester.

The group called on Bishop Dale Melczek  to warn parents, parishioners and the public about Father Sean Leo Rooney, and to beg anyone with information or suspicions about him to call law enforcement immediately.

SNAP says from 1968 to 1971, Father Rooney  worked at Salesian Day High School for Boys; Salesian Resident Junior Seminary; Camp Salesian for Boys; Salesian Retreat House for Boys; and Salesian Boys Club in Cedar Lake.  A Boston attorney disclosed last week that he settled a child sex abuse and cover-up case against Father Rooney and his church supervisors.  He was reportedly defrocked in 2008.

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Here is the full statement from David Clohessy, SNAP director:

A Catholic priest who worked in the Gary Diocese has been exposed – for the first time – as a credibly accused child molester. We call on Gary diocesan officials to warn parents, parishioners and the public about him and to beg anyone with information or suspicions about him to call law enforcement immediately.

From 1968 to 1971, Fr. Sean Leo Rooney worked at Salesian Day High School for Boys; Salesian Resident Junior Seminary; Camp Salesian for Boys; Salesian Retreat House for Boys; and Salesian Boys Club in Cedar Lake Indiana.  In 2013, Fr. Rooney was accused in a lawsuit of having sexually abused a 14-year-old junior seminary student in Goshen NY at least twice.

Last week, a Boston attorney disclosed that he settled a child sex abuse and cover up case against Fr. Rooney and his church supervisors. That attorney, Mitchell Garabedian, has posted Fr. Rooney’s name on his website as one of dozens of accused priests against whom Garabedian has won settlements.

We applaud Fr. Rooney’s victim for having the strength to come forward, file suit, endure delays and win some measure of justice and expose Catholic officials who have committed and concealed child sex crimes.

And we denounce Catholic officials in every state where he worked who apparently have kept silent about the accusations against Fr. Rooney for months or years.

We urge Gary Bishop Dale J. Melczek to “come clean,” explain why he and his colleagues have hidden these allegations, and to fire or at least demote every single Catholic employee who endangered kids by keeping quiet about them.

Fr. Rooney was a religious order priest. He belonged to the New Rochelle, NY based region (or province) of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He was reportedly defrocked in 2008.

So Melczek will try to split hairs and claim Fr. Rooney wasn’t his responsibility. But that’s legalistic dodge. Religious order priests like Fr. Rooney work in a diocese only with the explicit approval of the local bishop. And it’s the local bishop’s duty to safeguard the well-being of every Catholic parishioner in his diocese.

So it doesn’t matter which Catholic official officially signed Fr. Rooney’s paycheck. It’s the obligation of Melczek and other Gary Catholic officials to aggressively seek out others who may have seen, suspected or suffered his crimes and beg them to call police.

Let there be no mistake about this new information:  it’s being released because victims have filed lawsuits and insist on disclosures and real safety measures, not just pay offs. It’s not a sign of reform by Catholic officials. It’s a sign that when victims are brave enough to step forward and smart enough to file lawsuits, more truth can be exposed and more kids can be protected.

We hope that anyone who may have seen, suspected or suffered crimes by Fr. Rooney – or any cleric – will find the courage to speak up, get help, expose wrongdoers, protect others and start healing.

Fr. Rooney was ordained in 1959 and also worked in Birmingham AL, Boston MA, Cedar Lake IN, Marrero LA and Ramsey NJ, and to high school seminaries in Goshen NY and Cedar Lake IN.

[Photo of Fr. Rooney from church archives, courtesy SNAP]

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