Fall River Resources – June 2002
By Erica Plouffe
FALL RIVER -- The outcome of a national conference of clergy in Dallas this week addressing the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church likely will have little effect on the 10-year-old policies of the Fall River Diocese, Bishop Sean P. O'Malley said yesterday.
"Our policies are pretty much in sync," he said. "We've always had the reporting and the removing of priests from parishes. We've had a review board in place that helped develop the policy. ... We've been doing all this for a decade and the policy has served us well."
Bishop O'Malley implemented a stringent abuse policy in 1992 just before former Fall River Diocese priest James J. Porter was found guilty of sexually abusing of scores of minors.
Bishop O'Malley is one of 284 bishops attending the U.S. Conference of Bishops in Dallas this week.
The bishops are charged with establishing a national policy that addresses how to handle priests accused of sexual abuse. A draft policy released last week by a panel of bishops called for "zero-tolerance" for any future offense and a "two strikes and you're out" mandate for priests guilty of one incident of past abuse. The policy also calls for the Vatican to defrock any future child abuser guilty of more than one offense.
In an interview with The Standard-Times' editorial board, Bishop O'Malley said he would be surprised if the so-called "two strikes" policy is still included at the end of the two-day conference.
"I suspect the bishops will not want to reassign any priest with a credible allegation against him, regardless of whether it was in the past," he said. "That's certainly the majority opinion and I think the conference as a whole will come to that conclusion."
While the full defrocking of a priest will be left solely in the hands of the Vatican, Bishop O'Malley said he believes the steps American dioceses can take to remove priests from their ministry can have the same effect as laicization.
"I think what's important for our people to understand is that whether a priest goes through the laicization process or not, the end result will be the same," he said. "The priest would be permanently removed from ministry and not be allowed to present himself as a priest."
Even if a priest is laicized, said Bishop O'Malley, ordination into the priesthood is one of three sacraments administered to a person that can never be removed. The other two are baptism and confirmation.
"I think the recommendations will be strongly in favor of laicizations," he said. "Whether a priest is formally laicized or not is legal fiction because we consider the man a priest always."
This spring, two Fall River Diocese priests, the Rev. Francis McManus and the Rev. Robert Kaszynski, were removed from their posts after allegations of sexual misconduct 20 years ago surfaced against them.
Bishop O'Malley said both priests, despite the evil they are alleged to have done some 20 years ago, were able to grow into good priests who contributed positively to their respective ministries. But he doesn't foresee their ministry privileges being returned.
"At this point, for the good of the church, and to regain people's credibility in the priesthood, I don't think those men would be returned to active ministry," he said. "That doesn't mean they should be denied the right to celebrate Mass privately."
Bishop O'Malley entered the Fall River Diocese as the allegations of Father Porter surfaced. His first few years were spent addressing the problems that surfaced from the allegations.
"There was this sense of before and after," he said. "And then, it's deja vu all over again. And this is a terrible crisis. I think it's the worst crisis we've had in this church in this country, ever. Other crises were basically from outside the church. This comes from within the church. So healing will take a long time."
During the past decade, Bishop O'Malley helped to heal a diocese wrecked by the actions of the Rev. Porter. He hopes that the adversity he has led the diocese through these past 10 years has changed him in positive ways and will serve him well in Dallas this week.
"Changed? I hope so. I hope it's made me better, I hope it's made me focus on what's really important -- to serve God and not worry about other things," he said.
"And it's made me pray harder, which is good."
Woman says local priest abused her
By Steve Urbon
An upstate New York woman has accused retired Fall River priest Robert S. Kaszinski of sexually molesting her for years when she was a teenager.
She says she knows of at least two other women with similar stories to tell.
The popular Rev. Kaszinski resigned in March when faced with an accusation of sexual misconduct dating to the mid-1960s, and many parishioners reacted with dismay and even anger that a single accuser, decades later, could have such an impact, because of the diocese's "zero tolerance" policies.
But Joyce Nebush, born and raised in the heavily Polish-American St. Stanislaus parish in Fall River, wants the community and the world to know that there were others, and that she was one of them. Her story is a departure from the familiar refrain of priests preying on adolescent males.
The former Joyce Chrupcala of Fall River said that when she stood at the altar of St. Stanislaus Church in the summer of 1971 and exchanged wedding vows with Frank J. Nebush Jr., she kept to herself the awful secret that the priest who stood before them, joining them in holy matrimony, had sexually abused her for years during her adolescence.
Joyce Nebush said she kept that memory repressed for decades as she and her husband raised their family in upstate New York, near Utica. But in recent months, the torrent of news about sexual abuse by priests drove her to write a letter to the Diocese of Fall River and to the Rev. Kaszinski, the pastor at St. Stanislaus for more than a generation.
She said she didn't want money, she wanted an apology. And she wanted her things back.
"It's so silly," she said yesterday. "But I had a necklace with a piece of jade on it, and a class ring from high school, and a string of pearls from when I stood up in a cousin's wedding." She had decided to enter the convent, she said, and the Rev. Kaszinski had offered to keep them for her, she said.
She hasn't gotten her things back, she said, and she hasn't gotten an apology.
She has, through her attorney, received an offer of payment for her psychological counseling, and both she and her husband praise Bishop Sean P. O'Malley for being responsive in that regard.
Coincidentally, her letters were mailed on the very day that the Rev. Kaszinski resigned. It was not her accusations that caused it to happen, her husband emphatically repeats.
Mrs. Nebush, whose entire young life was steeped in the ways and institutions of the Roman Catholic Church, decided to leave the convent and enter nursing school in Boston, where she met her future husband on a blind date. They lived in Fall River for several years while he commuted to law school. Today he is the chief public defender in Oneida County, N.Y., and she works for Catholic Social Services in Utica, N.Y.
But she has a new mission -- in fact, more than one.
The first is to come to grips with her experience with the Rev. Kaszinski. She wants, she says, to tell the Fall River community that the priest was not responsible for just the one incident with which he was confronted by church officials in March on the day he resigned.
No, she says, there were others. She was one, and she says she has spoken to another Fall River woman with extremely similar memories. "She'd start a story and I'd finish the story," Mrs. Nebush said, still incredulous.
The abuse, she said, occurred regularly both in the rectory and at her family home on Hamlet Street. Once, she tried to report it.
"When I was in high school (Mount St. Mary Academy in Fall River) at a retreat, I was standing in line at the conference room door," and she had decided to tell another priest what was going on, she said.
"The priest told me it was my fault. I said to myself, 'Now where am I going to go with this?'" she said.
The answer was: nowhere. "He was and is still such a beloved priest. I know God has given him such a gift of preaching and he was just a saint. No one was going to believe me."
She said she kept silent about it, mentioning it only briefly early in her relationship with her future husband without identifying the specific priest. Otherwise, she left the past alone.
But she said the memories came back in full force earlier this year amid all the news reports. After she sent her letter, family members still in the area put her in touch with Paul Krupa of Assonet, who said he knew of other alleged victims, she said.
It was Mr. Krupa who brought a formal complaint against the Rev. Kaszinski to the diocese earlier this year.
The priest resigned three weeks later.
"The story is just beginning to unfold," said Mr. Krupa, a veteran Somerset High School science teacher.
"This is going to involve many more girls than have been mentioned so far," he said.
The allegations, Mrs. Nebush said, are in the hands of the diocese and the Bristol County district attorney. But the long-expired statute of limitations on offenses committed in the 1960s seriously impairs any attempt to pursue formal charges, and she hasn't heard back after agreeing to cooperate with an investigation.
But her frustration has found an outlet in another one of Mrs. Nebush's missions: to organize a SNAP group in the Utica, N.Y., area. While she and her husband were in Dallas to meet and protest with other victims during the national bishops' conference, she was named spokeswoman for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests for all of New York state except New York City, she said.
An article in her local newspaper three weeks ago has already drawn out at least six other victims of abuse by clergy, she said.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Nebush continues to attend SNAP meetings in Natick, four hours away, and watch the mailbox with diminishing expectations for an apology from the Rev. Kaszinski.
Mrs. Nebush's attorney, Courtney Pillsbury of the Boston law firm of Greenberg Traurig, was not available for comment yesterday. A spokesman for the Diocese of Fall River had no information available as of yesterday, either, and said he was unfamiliar with Mrs. Nebush's case.
Priest's accuser still waiting for apology
By Steve Urbon
A 54-year-old woman from Utica, N.Y., who says she was the victim of sexual abuse by a charismatic Fall River priest when she was a teenager, says she has yet to receive an apology from the diocese of Fall River.
[Photo Caption - Joyce Nebush, with her husband, Frank, says she was the victim of abuse by a Fall River priest and has yet to receive an apology. John Clifford/Daily Sentinel]
But Joyce Nebush said she is pleased in one respect: The attention she has received has already caused at least one other victim of clergy sexual abuse -- from another area -- to contact her and seek help.
Mrs. Nebush says she was sexually molested by the Rev. Robert S. Kaszinski, the retired pastor of St. Stanislaus parish in Fall River, for years while she was a teenager.
Although the Fall River diocese yesterday issued a press release regarding her claims and expressing regret for the abuse she says she suffered, it has not issued her the apology she has been seeking, she said.
In fact, she said yesterday, there has been no communication of any kind from the diocese to her. Contact has been made solely through her attorney, and it has involved payments for her therapy.
In response to a Standard-Times story Tuesday, the diocese Office of Communications wrote, "The Diocese of Fall River profoundly regrets the abuse Mrs. Nebush suffered and expresses heartfelt sorrow for her and all victims of sexual abuse by clergy."
Without making an explicit connection between the abuse and the Rev. Kaszinski, the diocese then said, "Father Kaszinski has not served in any ministry since the Diocese first learned of an allegation of sexual abuse against him."
It then went on to describe the diocese's policies regarding sexual abuse by priests.
"Shouldn't they be telling me?" asked Mrs. Nebush. "I have not received a phone call or anything in the mail or e-mail apologizing for anything."
Diocese spokesman John Kearns said the statement was issued in response to press inquiries and was not intended to be a personal apology to Mrs. Nebush. He said he did not know whether there would be one, but underscored the fact that the diocese is paying for her therapy as part of its policy.
No one answered the door yesterday at Rev. Kaszinski's Westport home, which he has owned since 1996. The phone number is unpublished.
Mrs. Nebush is the first person to state publicly that she had been abused by Rev. Kaszinski. She and Assonet resident Paul Krupa, a classmate of Mrs. Nebush's who made the allegations that precipitated Rev. Kaszinski's sudden retirement in March, say there are six or more victims, at least two of whom, besides Mrs. Nebush, have retained lawyers.
No civil lawsuits have been filed so far, however, and the statute of limitations has generally run out on offenses committed in the 1960s.
Besides seeking an apology and the return of some jewelry that she once
gave to Rev. Kaszinski when she entered a convent, Mrs. Nebush -- who
later went to nursing school and now works for Catholic Charities -- said
she wanted to make her story known so that victims of Rev. Kaszinski and
of others would come forward and begin repairing the damage in their lives.
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