Bishop Accountability

Fall River Resources – April 2002

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Scandal hits home

Sun Chronicle (Attleboro MA)
April 9, 2002

ATTLEBORO -- The Rev. Steven Furtado of Holy Ghost Church has been placed on administrative leave following an accusation of sexual misconduct dating back two decades.

Monsignor John Moore, director of communications for the Diocese of Fall River, said Father Furtado has not resigned.

At this point, Moore said, there is only an allegation against Furtado, not a confirmation of misconduct. He said he did not know the specifics of the allegations and could not talk about them if he did.

Parishioners learned of the action when a letter from Bishop Sean O'Malley was read at Saturday and Sunday Masses.

A time for outrage and for patience

Sun Chronicle (Attleboro MA)
April 10, 2002

As the sex scandal involving priests continues to unfold, there is a time for outrage and a time for patience. Both have arrived in the past few days.

The outrageous case of the Rev. Paul Shanley was brought to light Monday, when the lawyer representing Gregory Ford, who alleges the priest abused him from 1983 to 1989, released hun dreds of church documents.

The records unveiled by attor ney Roderick McLeish show the Boston archdiocese had been warned that Father Shanley was a sexual dan ger to children as early as 1967, when a letter from a priest at LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro related allega tions that he had molested boys in a cabin there. Dozens of similar complaints issued over the years. In 1979 Father Shanley was so brazen as to give a supporting speech at a meeting that led to the founding of the North Ameri can Man Boy Love Association.

Yet, Father Shanley was not only moved from parish to parish, but was promoted to pas tor of a church in Newton. He received a recommendation from the archdiocese in 1990 when he moved to California and a letter of praise in 1996 when he retired from the priesthood. When he applied to be director of a churchrun guest house for student trav elers in New York in 1997, the archdiocese raised no objections, even though it had paid cash set tlements to several of his victims.

The archdiocese's statement in response to the disclosures -- saying that it `` has learned from the painful experience of the inadequate policies and procedures of the past'' and is con fident that new poli cies `` are focused in a singular way on the protection of children'' -- strikes us as inadequate.

The timing is unfortunate, mean while, in the disclo sure made Sunday that the Rev. Steven Furtado, pastor of Holy Ghost Church in Attleboro, was accused of sexual misconduct 20 years ago and has been placed on administrative leave. The single accusation against him has nothing of the power of the history of accusa tions, public statements and set tlements related to Father Shan ley. The two should not be tarred with the same brush.

Since his assignment to Holy Ghost last June, Father Furtado has been a revitalizing force in the life of the parish. He is deserving of patience before judgment.

Devout Catholics keep faith

By Rick Thurmond
Sun Chronicle (Attleboro MA)
April 13, 2002

Katherine Lancisi calls the Eucharist her ``daily fix.''

A devout Catholic and parishioner at St. John the Evangelist Church in Attleboro, she attends Mass every day.

Lancisi also reads the newspaper, and cannot escape new headlines each day that chronicle the widening sex scandal rocking the Roman Catholic Church.

But her faith is unshaken.

``I have to separate the two,'' Lancisi said. ``My faith has not changed at all. It's just as strong as it ever was.

``I'm very upset by what has been coming out,'' she said. ``I hope it becomes the purification of our faith -- cleaning house, as it were. We might end up with a smaller clergy, but it will be a clergy more along traditional lines.

``I see us coming out on the other side a stronger church.''

Last week was not an easy time for Catholics in the Attleboro area.

Court documents released on Monday suggest that Cardinal Bernard Law, spiritual leader of the Archdiocese of Boston and the nation's highest-ranking Catholic prelate, covered up alleged sexual abuse by the Rev. Paul Shanley, a priest accused in 26 child molestation complaints who also is alleged to have advocated sex between men and boys.

Two days earlier, parishioners at Holy Ghost Church in Attleboro were informed their pastor, the Rev. Steven Furtado, had been placed on administrative leave by Fall River Bishop Sean O'Malley because of alleged sexual misconduct two decades ago.

The Sun Chronicle sought out the most devout of area Catholics last week to ask them how their faith was holding up.

Many of them are grandparents.

Some brought up children in the Catholic Church during Vatican II reforms in the 1960s, which altered centuries-old traditions. A decade ago, they weathered the James Porter scandal involving another predatory priest in Southeastern Massachusetts.

Since January, they have been inundated with news reports detailing the sex scandal of former priest John Geoghan in Boston and allegations of a church cover-up. Now, there is the Shanley scandal and mounting pressure for Cardinal Law to resign.

But, like Katherine Lancisi, Catholics who spoke with The Sun Chronicle remain steadfast in their faith and their church, although they are not all of one mind on the future of Cardinal Law.

They are fiercely loyal to their own pastors and congregations, but in some cases there is painful conflict regarding the cardinal.

``I was heartily in favor that he step down,'' Lancisi said.

But she has reconsidered since speaking with a friend who attended a Catholic convocation in Boston earlier this year where Cardinal Law addressed the issue.

``She said he stood and took it on the chin,'' Lancisi said. ``She came away saying that maybe he needed to stay and clean up the mess. It remains to be seen.''

In a letter to archdiocesan priests on Friday, Cardinal Law said he wanted to remain as archbishop.

A poll conducted April 1 to April 9 by researchers at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., before Cardinal Law's announcement, found 60 percent of Massachusetts Catholics surveyed said he should resign. A similar result was reported in a Boston Herald poll in February.

Jeanne Bonneau, who attends Mass daily at St. Mary's Church in Foxboro, wonders who exactly is polled.

``I get very upset when I see the numbers -- this percent says they're disgruntled,'' she said. ``I don't believe it.''

``A lot of Catholics, like a lot of Episcopalians or Presbyterians or any other religion, are Catholic in name only,'' Bonneau said. ``Those of us who are traditional and devout Catholics don't stand up and champion our faith. We sit back and pray.

``I call this a call to prayer, not a call for resignation. That's not for me to decide. I don't think that would solve the problem.''

``I'm not saying everything is OK. Some of it has been true,'' Bonneau said. ``Across the centuries we've had bad people in the church. There are bad people in all churches. We've had bad popes. Look at Jesus and his 12 disciples. He had one bad apple out of the 12.''

But, she said, ``The church goes on. The church prevails.''

Doris Legg, a eucharistic minister at St. Mark's Church in North Attleboro, says she is saddened by the sex scandal.

``It's a terrible thing. It should have come out a long time ago,'' Legg said, but she added: ``It has not affected my faith. I don't go to church for the priests. I go for God. It's God's house, and the priests happen to be there.''

Nor has she noticed a toll on the faith of other parishioners.

``It hasn't affected attendance at St. Mark's,'' Legg said. ``I bring the Host to people who can't get out. It doesn't seem to have affected the people I visit, either.

``I think the media has a lot to do with all the attention,'' she said. ``It sells newspapers. It gets people glued to the TV. Personally, I shut it off.''

Priests at other parishes report much the same.

``Attendance hasn't wavered,'' said the Rev. Robert Oliveira, pastor of St. Mary's Church in Norton and head of the Catholic deanery in the Attleboro area. ``We're going through this as a Catholic community.

``This afternoon a gentleman came to see me. He said people in the parish were broken hearted, but they still very much support the priests in the parish and each other.''

``Honest to God, all of us have had our breath taken away by what's gone on,'' Father Oliveira said. ``But there's been, at least here, a real concern for the victims. We pray for all concerned. We also pray for a sense of justice. We're not being Pollyanna-like about this.''

So far the scandal seems to have had little financial impact in the Diocese of Fall River, which includes most communities in the Attleboro area.

``There's been no drop-off in pledges at all,'' said Michael Donly, the diocese director of development. ``We've seen no negatives, whatsoever.''

Catholic Charities in the Fall River Diocese raised $3.6 million last year. It starts a new appeal next month.

``Ninety-four cents of every dollar raised goes directly to people in need,'' Donly said. ``I think the public realizes the cause of the appeal has nothing to do with the news that's coming out now. I'm happy to be able to say that.''

Monsignor Daniel Hoye, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Church in Attleboro, says the ongoing scandal has had no impact on attendance or the collection basket in his parish.

``It was standing-room only at Easter. People who go to church are still coming,'' he said. ``Nobody is staying away because of this.''

But, he added, ``We're in a different place than Boston. We're not making huge payments. We're not being sued.''

``We're living in post-Porter days,'' Monsignor Hoye said. ``We went through this back then. We have procedures in place.''

It is a different story for Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Boston, where the scandal is at least partly to blame for a looming deficit in its annual fund drive.

``It's had a significant impact on corporate grants and foundation grants,'' said Maureen March, spokeswoman for Catholic Charities in Boston. ``Just in the past few weeks, we've lost over $800,000 in grants.''

``The people at home who send us money have been very loyal,'' she said. ``But some of the big corporate donors have told us they're not going to give to Catholic Charities until the archbishop is changed out.''

St. Mary's Church in Wrentham is part of the Boston archdiocese, but the Rev. John Connolly says he has seen little fallout from the scandal in his parish.

``The church holds 750 people, and we had over eleven hundred people at Easter Mass,'' he said. ``Since Easter, when we've been hit in the gut with some of the things that have come out, attendance is not down. The offering has actually increased.''

``I think people in the parish realize we're 35 miles away from the chancery and Cardinal Law,'' Father Connolly said. ``This is the local church, and we're doing as well as we can.''

Frank Flinn, adjunct professor of religious studies in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis and a practicing Catholic, is not surprised.

``Ordinary Catholics care a lot about their church and a lot about their faith,'' he said. ``They are deeply wounded by this. They hold bishops most responsible for recycling pedophile priests, but they stand by the church.''

Flinn pointed to a couple of factors that might explain why.

``American Catholics have picked and chosen on a number of issues -- probably the biggest one being birth control,'' he said.

Church leaders have been critical of the trait, Flinn said, referring to practitioners as ``cafeteria Catholics.''

``But in this case, I think it's helped the church,'' he said. ``They're not going to let their faith be shaken by the acts of a very harmful few.

``That speaks for the maturity of the average Catholic. Their faith is their faith.''

And, Flinn said, ``American Catholics are less clergy-dependent than Catholics in other cultures, which is a good sign. It helps the church-at-large in this case. Their spiritual and moral lives are their own.''

LaSalette Shrine in Attleboro attracts thousands of visitors during the Christmas season with its galaxy of holiday lights.

But the rest of the year LaSalette is a spiritual oasis for the devout to come and reflect on their faith.

Charles Struck of Wrentham tends to body and soul at LaSalette, walking the perimeter of the grounds most days before entering the sanctuary for noon Mass.

Struck said he is not exactly troubled by the scandal.

``In so far as the headlines are factual, I'm saddened,'' he said. ``Troubled is not the right word. I'm saddened at the betrayal of this sort by priests. I'm also sad that Judas betrayed Jesus.''

``I'm balancing between justice and forgiveness,'' he said. ``That's a very tough question, by the way -- one I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer.''

But Struck says his faith is unaltered.

``Faith doesn't depend on people being perfect,'' he said.

Ray Martin of Cranston, R.I., a big man who rides motorcycles and wears a leather Harley-Davidson jacket, was at LaSalette last week because, he said, ``I wanted to start off the new season with some prayers.''

He would rather not dwell on the scandal.

``I think a lot of the stuff that happened, happened in the past,'' Martin said. ``We need to move on and go from there. I think we're going in the right direction.''

Adelaide Carvalho of North Providence came to LaSalette to light a candle. ``A thank you,'' she said.

Her faith is unshaken by the scandal.

``If you believe in God, God is always God,'' Carvalho said. ``God is not the one who did these things.''

``I have been sad,'' she said. ``We have to pray for the victims and pray for the priests who are affected. We have to pray for them all. No human is perfect.''

Therese Shay, her daughter, Jennifer, and Jennifer's fiancee were strolling around LaSalette's Rosary Pond last week.

It is hard to avoid the scandal, Shay said.

``It should have been dealt with right away, instead of passing it on,'' she said. ``But I don't think it has hurt anyone's faith. It's a problem with human beings, not a problem with faith.''

Shay says she has ``mixed feelings'' about church leaders now.

``I think they should have handled the problem before it got this bad,'' she said.

And she is conflicted about Cardinal Law's role in the scandal.

``I think he made a lot of mistakes,'' Shay said. ``There was so much happening, but it doesn't hurt my faith.''

Jennifer Shay is struck by the pace of recent events and new revelations.

``It seems like now it's turning into a witch hunt,'' she said. ``I definitely feel they should have dealt with it a long time ago, faced the problem.

``I don't think it's hurt people's faith in God,'' she said. ``It may have hurt people's faith in the church.''

Norton woman tells of priest sex abuse

By Gloria LaBounty 508-236-0333 or
Sun Chronicle (Attleboro MA)
April 27, 2002

A priest accused of years of sexual abuse of a young girl at St. Mary's Parish in Norton in the 1960s and 1970s spent the next 28 years working in Catholic missionary parishes in South America until he was forced into retirement several weeks ago.

Father Donald Bowen, who served at St. Mary's from 1965 to 1973, allegedly began abusing the girl when she was 9 and continued until she was in high school, according to the victim, who contacted The Sun Chronicle but asked not to be publicly identified.

The victim, now in her 40s, said she recently reported Bowen to the Bristol County district attorney's office. The Fall River Diocese reached a settlement with the victim in 1992, paying her an undisclosed amount of money and requiring her to keep silent about the matter. The settlement does not prevent her from reporting the crimes to prosecutors.

A spokesman for District Attorney Paul Walsh Jr. declined to comment, but The Sun Chronicle has learned that Bowen is one of 25 priests in the Fall River Diocese that Walsh's office is investigating.

A spokesman for the diocese said he is not aware of any allegations by other individuals against Bowen, either locally or in South America.

The victim said she was prompted to come forward by news accounts of the sexual abuse scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston. She said she wanted to both urge the church to prevent such crimes in the future and to make people aware of the impact of abuse on victims.

`` Hopefully if enough people read about this horrific ongoing problem, the public will band together and force those in power to put a real true stop to this,'' she said.

`` I want to do anything and everything I can to prevent this type of experience from happening to another child,'' she said. `` The aftereffects are horrendous ... Had I been protected from this pedophile I know my life would have turned out very differently than it has.''

The victim said she had spent years in therapy to deal with various physical, psychological and emotional problems, including anorexia and suicidal tendencies, and difficulties with relationships, intimacy and trust. She now considers those problems behind her.

She even became a quiet activist, and organized a couple of retreats for victims of abuse. `` Victims can recover and even thrive,'' she said. `` I count myself as one of them.''

Missionary work

In 1973, Bowen went to South America under the auspices of the Boston-based Society of St. James the Apostle, but like others in the missionary program he officially remained a diocesan priest. The society's volunteer priests are loaned by their bishops to churches in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador.

Bowen continued to work in South America until he was removed earlier this year, long after diocesan leaders were made aware of the allegations against him.

Beginning in the late 1980s, the victim, either personally or through her lawyer, communicated with church officials about the alleged abuse.

Those contacted included Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston; the St. James Society; Archbishop Daniel Cronin, who was bishop in Fall River at the time and is now archbishop in Hartford; Bishop Sean O'Malley, who came to Fall River in August 1992, and priests involved in processing an annulment of her first marriage in the late 1980s. She said she also talked to individual priests about the abuse at different points in her life.

After being contacted by the victim's lawyer in 1990, the Diocese of Fall River offered the monetary settlement, which she agreed to and signed in 1992. That was after Bishop Cronin had left and before Bishop O'Malley arrived.

According to diocesan spokesman John Kearns, when Bishop O'Malley became aware of the allegations, he told the St. James Society that Bowen was to receive ongoing therapy and have no unsupervised access to children. Kearns said that while working for the society, Bowen was under its supervision and directly responsible to his superiors there.

`Our little secret'

Bowen had been ordained for a year when he was assigned as an associate priest at St. Mary's in 1965. He became a friend of the victim's family, was a frequent guest in their home, and often took the children out to run errands, get ice cream, go to a fast-food restaurant or stop by the parish center.

One night, he stepped over the line, she said.

She was 9 the night she was at the home of a relative, sitting in the living room with Bowen and a cousin. The adults had gone to bed, she said, and her cousin had fallen asleep when Bowen grabbed her, pulled her on top of him, and began fondling and kissing her.

The next day, she said, he acted as though nothing had happened.

`` I didn't say a word,'' she said. `` I didn't know if it was right or wrong.''

Little by little, more and more happened in various locations, she said, including her house and those of relatives, the parish center, the choir loft, and Bowen's car.

At the time, she didn't understand the sexual acts, she said, and thought they were part of being the priest's friend.

`` Whatever he told me to do, I did it,'' she said.

The priest made her feel special for being singled out, she said, and he began telling her he loved her.

`` He said it was our little secret, that no one should know,'' the victim said.

She didn't tell anyone for years, she said, because she thought no one would believe her.

`` I never went to anyone because it would have been a miracle for anyone to believe me,'' she said. `` Everyone adored this guy. Who would they believe -- a priest who was highly regarded, or a little girl?''

When she reached high school age, she said she tried to stop the abuse and resisted his efforts to be alone with her. She also began confiding in friends, and believes that word got back to her family and to Bowen.

Soon after that, she heard he was going to South America.

Bowen left St. Mary's in 1973 and spent a couple of months at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Attleboro before going to South America in the fall of that year, according to Kearns.

Bowen remained there but periodically returned to this country for visits, according to the victim.

During one of those visits, she said she confronted him about the abuse, and he told her he loved her and wanted to leave the priesthood to marry her.

For years, he sent her love notes and cards, she said, and continued to send her letters from South America.

Removed from ministry

Bowen was most recently serving at a church in Oruro, Bolivia.

As of earlier this year he was no longer with the St. James Society, according to the Rev. Joseph Shields, director of the society.

Shields said Bowen left based on Cardinal Law's `` zero tolerance'' policy that calls for removal of priests after a single allegation of abuse. He said Bowen's case had been brought to his attention, but would not elaborate on how that occurred.

Shields declined to answer other questions about the priest because of his concern over legal issues involved in the case.

Bowen is now retired and living on his own in Bolivia, according to Kearns, the diocesan spokesman.

Attempts by The Sun Chronicle to contact Bowen through the diocese and through the St. James Society were unsuccessful, as were attempts to reach him by telephone in Bolivia.

A police captain in Oruro who was reached by phone, told The Sun Chronicle that he had no information on anyone named Donald Bowen in his files.

As of late February, Bowen was still listed on the St. James Society's Web site as being in Oruro, one of four priests there and one of a dozen in Bolivia.

By late March, Bowen's name and photograph had been removed from the Web site.

At the time Bowen was sent to South America in 1973, the Fall River Diocese was overseen by Bishop Cronin, who is now in Hartford. When contacted by The Sun Chronicle for comment, the Rev. John Gatzak, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Hartford, referred all inquiries about Bowen to Kearns of the Fall River Diocese.

Kearns said Bowen requested on his own to join the St. James Society in 1973, a time when dioceses had an ample number of priests and were able to release some from diocesan duty so they could do mission work.

Under canon law of the church, Kearns said, these priests remain a part of the diocese where they were ordained, but come under the supervision of the St. James director when they join the society.

Gathering strength

The victim said she went through years of therapy after Bowen left, and gradually became strong enough to talk about the abuse. She said she told her story to a couple of priests over the years in the hope that something would be done about Bowen, but nothing happened.

In the late 1980s, she applied to the Fall River Diocese for an annulment of her first marriage as a way of bringing the allegations to the attention of the church.

She attributed her marital difficulties to the abuse by Bowen. As part of her testimony to obtain the annulment, she said she had to provide graphic details of the abuse. Yet Bowen stayed in South America, and she said she got a fast annulment at no expense to her. `` I didn't even pay for a postage stamp,'' she said.

According to Kearns, any information that is part of an annulment process is strictly confidential, and would not be shared with anyone outside that process.

The victim later went to a lawyer, who sent letters in 1990 to Cardinal Law, Bishop Cronin and Monsignor John Moriarty of the St. James Society, claiming that her client had suffered severe personal injuries as a result of `` the negligence and improper conduct of Father Donald Bowen.''

The lawyer ended up dealing with the attorney for the Diocese of Fall River and sent him a subsequent and lengthy letter describing the abuse in detail, and the psychological, sexual and emotional damage the victim said she suffered because of it.

The victim said she asked at the time of the settlement that Bowen get treatment and not have contact with children. The diocese would not put that in writing, she said, but said it would suggest to the St. James Society that the priest be in therapy and not work with children. She said she was also told she could call and check on his whereabouts at any time.

The victim said she never got any proof that Bowen went into treatment, and was continually concerned that he might be abusing more children in the mountains and villages of South America.

`` To say he had no access to children is a joke,'' the victim said.

Just before Porter

The settlement was reached in 1992 just weeks before the victims of former priest James Porter went public with their allegations, which included abuse of dozens of children in the 1960s at St. Mary's parish in North Attleboro and elsewhere. Porter is now in prison.

Bowen's victim said she was surprised by the revelations and had never thought that so many others had been abused by a priest.

The victim said she remained concerned about Bowen and called the St. James Society in 1994 to ask about his whereabouts.

The society, she said, would not give her any information, and she then contacted Bishop O'Malley, and asked to meet with him. She said the bishop listened to her story and told her he was not familiar with the case, but would look into it.

She received a letter from the bishop in September 1994 that said Bowen was still affiliated with the St. James Society in Oruro, Bolivia.

`` I have taken every step possible to insure that past problems will not be repeated,'' Bishop O'Malley said in his letter. `` He and his superiors have been advised that he is to have no unsupervised access to children. He has been directed to receive ongoing therapy. If these directives are not workable for him, or the Society of Saint James the Apostle, he is to return home and retire from active ministry.''

Kearns, the diocesan spokesman, said that when Bishop O'Malley became aware of the allegations against Bowen, he contacted Bowen's superior at the St. James Society, and was assured that the priest would not be working with children, and that his tasks would only include training adult religion instructors, writing a history of the society, and performing other administrative tasks, and that he would be supervised.

Besides a director, the society has a coordinator for each of the three countries in South America where parishes are located. In the society's monthly newsletter in June 2000, Bowen was referred to as the coordinator in Bolivia.

A policy Bishop O'Malley had put in place in 1994 called for the establishment of a review board to investigate allegations and for mandatory reporting to legal authorities if a child was being abused. Since then, the review board has looked at allegations brought to the attention of the diocese by alleged victims who are now adults.

The policy would not have applied to the Bowen case, Kearns said, because it had been settled with the diocese before Bishop O'Malley arrived. But he said the bishop felt strongly enough about the allegations to contact the leadership of the society. Since the Porter case, he said, `` nothing is taken lightly or for granted.''

Bishop O'Malley has said that when allegations of past abuse were brought to the diocese following the Porter case, he investigated and then removed several priests from active ministry if the allegations had substance.

Asked why the bishop did not remove Bowen from ministry at that time, Kearns said the priest was directly responsible to his superiors at the St. James Society, and Bishop O'Malley had been assured that Bowen would not work with children.

Widening probe

The diocese and District Attorney Walsh announced last week that they had been exchanging information about old cases for several weeks and that complaints against 25 priests were being investigated. The individuals and their parishes were not identified.

According to a law enforcement source, Bowen is on the list, and one of the issues bearing on all the cases is the statute of limitations.

In the Bowen case, investigators will presumably examine the effect of Bowen's residency in South America. Under some circumstances, authorities have said, the statute of limitations doesn't expire if the suspect leaves the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred.

In explaining his sexual abuse policy in the past, Bishop O'Malley has said that no diagnosed pedophile would be assigned in the diocese or be authorized to minister outside the diocese. His spokesman, Kearns, said the diocese does not even wait until a case goes that far, and is now removing accused priests while investigations are conducted.

That was the case with the Rev. Steven Furtado, who was recently removed from Holy Ghost Parish in Attleboro while an allegation against him is investigated. The incident allegedly occurred about 20 years ago.

Bowen case shows how danger lingers

Sun Chronicle (Attleboro MA)
April 30, 2002

The case of the Rev. Donald Bowen reported in The Sun Chronicle Sunday [4/28/03] is an example of why the Catholic Church must act on old allegations of abuse as well as new ones.

Church leaders appear to agree that new allegations of abuse and those involving vic tims who are still children must be reported to authorities. They're divided, however, over whether old cases that come to light when the victim is an adult should be reported.

There really should be no dis tinction. All cases should be reported so that the authorities can decide whether they are to be pursued as legal matters. The pope, after all, called child sexu al abuse a crime.

Since most of these cases are likely to be beyond the reach of the law because of the statute of limitations, the onus really falls on the church to deal with the abuser.

Different circumstances call for different steps. Some priests may be retired and others not in active service. Some, in fact, may have left the priesthood or be in nursing homes. In these cases there isn't much more the church can do to protect the public.

Those accused priests who are still working, especially those with access to children and youths, must be taken out of active service until the allega tions are resolved. This is gener ally done today and should have been done in Donald Bowen's case.

A Norton woman, who says she was sexually abused by Bowen from age 9 until her early teens, reported him to church authorities many years later and obtained a settlement from the Fall River Diocese.

Bowen, in the meantime, had gone to South America as a mis sionary. Bishop Sean O'Malley assured the victim in 1994 that Bowen was to receive therapy and not have access to children, but Bowen contin ued working as a priest in Bolivia. He retired earlier this year in line with Cardinal Bernard Law's `` zero tolerance'' policy.

This case is complicated by the fact Bowen officially remained a diocesan priest but actually worked for a mission ary society based in Boston. However, he continued in active service for a dozen years after the diocese was first notified of the allegations against him and is now being investigated by the district attorney's office, based on a complaint by the victim.

The diocese says because of the settlement it reached with the victim back in 1992 it did not report Bowen to authorities and did not later present the case to a review board that Bishop O'Malley established in 1994 in the wake of the Father Porter scandal.

That, today, seems inade quate. Bowen, who had been sending love letters to the victim for years, should have been ordered back to the diocese and defrocked.

Zero tolerance should be the policy across the board.

St. Mary's reacts

By Susan Lahoud 508-236-0398
Sun Chronicle (Attleboro MA)
April 30, 2002

NORTON -- Members of St. Mary's Church here say they are supportive of their current pastor and have faith that he will aid anybody who needs it in light of allegations that a priest who served at the church in the 1960s and 1970s sexually-abused a young girl.

`` I think he handled it very well,'' JoAnn Petrelli, a member of St. Mary's in Norton for 20 years, said of current pastor Father Robert Oliveira's comments during Mass this past weekend.

`` Whatever it takes, he'll do,'' she said, echoing the comments of other church members who said they were impressed that Father Oliveira offered to walk with them to the bishop's or the district attorney's office if they needed him to.

Father Oliveira said he addressed the issue with members during Mass this past weekend, after a story regarding the allegations against Father Donald Bowen by a Norton woman, now in her mid-40s, ran in The Sun Chronicle Sunday.

Father Oliveira, who was at St. Mary's in North Attleboro for four years before arriving in Norton nearly five years ago, said he only once met Father Bowen when he returned for a visit to raise money for the mission he was on. Father Bowen spent the next 28 years after leaving the Norton church working in Catholic missionary parishes in South America until he was forced into retirement several weeks ago.

`` We've all been scandalized and heartbroken'' about allegations of sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Diocese, Father Oliveira said Monday. `` And now it's very personalized for this community.''

He said he reiterated during Mass what he has been saying to members of his church for several months now: `` You've got to speak the truth about what happened -- the ugliness and the good.''

Father Oliveira said he offered yet again an invitation to people to talk to him and `` if you need me to walk with you to the bishop's office or you need me to walk with you to the district attorney's office, I will do that.''

`` I would do whatever I could as a parish priest,'' he said.

Father Oliveira said that he has been dealing with the issue of alleged sexual abuse of children by priests because many people in Norton and Mansfield have connections to the Archdiocese of Boston churches which has been at the center of the national crisis over sexual abuse by priests.

He said no one in the parish has approached him about Father Bowen.

Father Oliveira said that while some of the older members of the church may have known Father Bowen, `` I've not received any comments from them -- nothing specifically about Father Bowen.''

`` I'm hoping it was an isolated incident,'' he said of the allegations by the woman. `` We're holding our breath.''

Father Oliveira said the parish has been very supportive.

`` It's a demanding time for victims and it's a demanding time for priests,'' he said. `` All of us are walking along with sloped shoulders'' in regards to allegations and reports of sexual abuse by clergy.

Members of the church interviewed Monday said they appreciate Father Oliveira's approach and are supportive of him and proud of their parish.

Norman Corriveau, a member of St. Mary's in Norton for 27 years, said it was a `` shock'' that the allegations concerned a past priest at his own church. Yet he said that with the inundation of reports that have surfaced in recent months as well as the way Cardinal Law has allegedly dealt with them in the past, `` I'm not surprised.''

He said Father Oliveira said: `` In effect, if they were victims, he would gladly speak to them.''

Petrelli said she believes that `` the days about being quiet about it are over.''

She thinks children today, unlike years ago, `` are a lot more open.''

Petrelli hopes children have learned through home and at school, about talking to their parents or others if they feel they are at risk of abuse.


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