SNAP to Yakima bishop: Withdraw from bid to lead USCCB's child protection committee

by Dan Morris-Young

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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests have asked Yakima Bishop Joseph Tyson in a Nov. 10 letter to remove himself from "his race for chair of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People."

SNAP charged that Tyson had "done virtually nothing to undo the damage" done by past clerical sex abusers in the Yakima diocese and those who shielded them. A diocesan official on Nov. 11 responded that "almost without exception, our people express gratitude for the increased awareness they have gained, information that most are not receiving anywhere else" on sex abuse.

In an email to NCR, Msgr. Robert Siler, Yakima chancellor and moderator of the curia, wrote: "We have beefed up our training program this past year, introducing live Virtus abuse prevention trainings in English and Spanish that take 2-1/2 to 3 hours. We have trained more than 1,000 employees and volunteers. I have personally conducted 80 percent of those trainings."

In a news release, SNAP says that when Tyson was installed in 2011 it "publicly expressed hopes that he would 'take immediate steps to warn Mexican families and officials about [Deacon] Aaron Ramirez and tell the full truth about allegations against Fr. [Darell] Mitchell.'"

The group claims Tyson did neither.

According to a 2003 public letter by Tyson predecessor Bishop Carlos Sevilla, "Deacon Aaron Ramirez ... avoided prosecution by fleeing to Mexico in August 1999 and ... was subsequently laicized (which means that, by a decree of the pope, Aaron Ramirez is no longer in any way to be identified or function as an ordained minister of the Church) in July 2000."

Ramirez was accused of abuse of a 17-year-old boy in 1999. It has been reported that Ramirez became an Episcopal priest, and that he was released from Episcopal ministry in 2006.

Mitchell was accused of having nude pictures of boys on his computer in 2003. In 2014, SNAP criticized Tyson "for quietly putting Mitchell, who had been suspended twice, back into parish work," according to the Nov. 10 SNAP release.

According to Siler, Mitchell "was returned to ministry by Bishop Carlos Sevilla, S.J., prior to Bishop Tyson coming to the Diocese, after a recommendation to do so by the Diocesan Lay Advisory Board. Fr. Mitchell voluntarily requested an assignment outside of parish ministry, and has done stellar work as director of Calvary Cemetery in Yakima. He has been given permission to do weekend sacramental ministry by both Bishop Sevilla and Bishop Tyson, following review and approval by the Lay Advisory Board. He has served the Church well in that capacity."

In a statement forwarded to NCR by Siler, Tyson said: "I was asked by the USCCB leadership if I would be willing to be nominated for the chairmanship of the Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, along with Bishop (Timothy) Doherty. I agreed. I do not view Bishop Doherty as an 'opponent,' as SNAP characterizes it, but as a fellow bishop who is deeply committed to the protection of children and youth, as am I, and I am honored to be nominated."

Doherty is bishop of Lafayette, Ind., diocese. USCCB elections are slated Nov. 14.

The SNAP letter to Tyson is signed by David Clohessy of St. Louis, director of SNAP, and by Robert Fontana of Seattle, founder of the central Washington chapter of Voice of the Faithful.

[Dan Morris-Young is NCR West Coast correspondent.]

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