Local survivor joins call for investigation into Youngstown Diocese sexual abuse cases

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In the wake of a public announcement Tuesday where the Youngstown Diocese and Bishop George Murry released the names of 31 priests that have been removed because of abuse allegations, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is saying the diocese needs to do more.

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The organization sent out a response after the announcement saying that Bishop Murry referred to the allegations against the priests as “credible.” And while they are glad church officials have taken this first step, SNAP officials want the diocese to immediately urge an independent investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

SNAP leaders want a full review of diocesan records, personnel files and abuse records, saying that only an independent law enforcement agency can determine when an allegation is “credible” or not, not just the Diocesan Review Board.

Jerry Arnal was abused by a priest in 1976 when he was 13 years old. He is also a member of the local SNAP organization. His abuser is one of the names on Bishop Murry’s list.

“My first reaction was I broke down and cried. My second reaction was to thank God for all the other victims that could come forward,” Arnal said.

Arnal said he felt obligated to not let what happened to him happen to any other child so he reported the abuse years later in the mid-80s. Today, he realized he did the right thing in reporting the abuse, no matter how long he waited.

“When there was 31 that came out it was like, my gosh, this has been in hiding for too long, too long. Too many people have suffered,” Arnal said.

Arnal’s abuser was ordained as a deacon in the church even after he had been reported to the diocese, so Arnal reported the abuse again in 2010. He’s come a long way since then.

“Today, I am very strong because of all that. I’ve come through a lot and it has made me that much stronger,” Arnal said.

The SNAP organization turned out to be a place where Arnal could continue to heal while helping others. He is now the leader of the Youngstown chapter.

In addition to the state investigation, SNAP is also requesting that Bishop Murry publicize this list of abusers permanently on the diocesan website and run it at least quarterly in every parish bulletin. They want the list to include every proven, admitted and credibly accused church employee: bishops, priests, seminarians, brothers, nuns and lay people, including a date when Murry or his staff first learned of the allegation.

In doing this, SNAP leaders say it will be known who knew what and when, and what was done with the information.

Arnal says the church has made a lot of mistakes, but the transparency he heard from Bishop Murry is a great step forward for the church.

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