By Carolyn Peirce
Examiner Staff Writer
Three Catholic priests with ties to Maryland are among the nation’s most dangerous sexual predators, according to a list released Tuesday by a group of clergy sex abuse victims demanding greater accountability from the Catholic Church.
“We believe the bishops have not done enough to protect children and help victims heal,” said Barbara Blaine, president and founder of Chicago-based support group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“We’re asking them to take action to protect the innocent by helping to jail these priests.”
Blaine hosted a SNAP rally Tuesday outside the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore, where more than 200 bishops from across the country are holding their annual U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week.
While Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George led the bishops in denouncing abortion to protect the unborn, SNAP supporters criticized him for putting children in danger of predatory priests walking free without supervision.
“Their lofty words are meaningless. It’s direct action that’s important,” Blaine said.
“The fact that we’re here making a list of the top 10 [predatory priests] is sad. The bishops should be the ones doing this.”
SNAP identified the most dangerous priests based on recent abuse allegations, multiple victims and their access to children, Blaine said.
Topping the list was the Rev. Fernando Cristancho, of Bel Air, who is accused of sexually abusing two of his 6-year-old triplets. Cristancho was never criminally charged, but the Archdiocese of Baltimore revoked his ability to practice in 2002.
The list also included the Rev. A.J. Cote, who settled a $1.2 million civil lawsuit in 2007 for allegedly sexually abusing a Maryland boy, and the Rev. Kenneth J. Martin, a convicted child molester with the archdiocese of Chicago who taught at Loyola College in Baltimore.
SNAP asked the church to publish the list and encourage individuals with additional information to come forward.
Sister Maureen Paul Turlish, who joined SNAP on Tuesday, said bishops must improve victim outreach instead of ducking lawsuits because “the church’s business is compassion, not money.”
SNAP issued a 21-point guide Tuesday that bishops can refer to when a priest is accused of child sex abuse, said Virginia SNAP Director Becky Ianni, 51, who said she was abused at age 9 in Alexandria, Va.
“By doing this and people seeing us, it lets them know they can come forward, and it’s safe. You’re not alone – that’s important for victims to understand,” she said.
For a complete list of the 10 most dangerous priests, visit the SNAP web site at http://www.snapnetwork.org/.
Staff Writer Andrew Cannarsa contributed to this report.