Fall River Resources – May 2003
By Curt Brown
[Photo Caption - Bishop-elect George W. Coleman, 64, shared thoughts yesterday about what should be done to help the Catholic Church recover from the scandal that erupted in the Boston archdiocese and prompted Cardinal Bernard F. Law to resign. Peter Pereira/The Standard-Times]
Fall River -- The bishop-elect of the Catholic Diocese of Fall River believes it will take a recommitment of everyone in the church, along with an adherence to training and criminal background checks, to repair the damage done by the clergy abuse scandal.
Monsignor George W. Coleman, 64, in one of his first interviews since the pope announced his appointment last week, elaborated yesterday on his thoughts about healing the emotional wounds within the Catholic Church caused by allegations of widespread abuse within the Boston archdiocese and in others around the country.
The allegations rocked the Boston archdiocese and nearly a year later led to the resignation of Cardinal Bernard F. Law, who said he hoped his departure would aid the healing process.
Last year, two priests from the Fall River diocese, the Rev. Francis McManus, chaplain at St. Luke's Hospital, New Bedford, and the Rev. Robert Kaszynski, pastor of St. Stanislaus Church, Fall River, were removed from their posts after allegations of sexual misconduct 20 years ago surfaced against them.
Monsignor Coleman expressed his full support for their removal and vowed to continue sexual abuse policies implemented 11 years ago by former Bishop Sean P. O'Malley. The policies were instituted in the wake of the scandal involving former priest James R. Porter, who pleaded guilty to abusing children while in the Fall River diocese.
Bishop O'Malley left the Diocese of Fall River in October to become bishop in Palm Beach, Fla.
The bishop-elect said he feels it is important to update policies as the need arises. "Never would I want a situation to occur, so it's preventive," he said of the policies.
The policies call for sexual abuse training and criminal history checks of all volunteers and employees in the Fall River diocese.
Calling the recommitment "a universal call to holiness," he said he hopes all involved in the church search within themselves and "realize what it is to be a believer in Jesus Christ" and commit themselves to the church's teachings.
"All are called to holiness. It's a communion of the faith," he said. He agreed this will require patience and "God's grace. I'm convinced the grace is there."
The new bishop said he never knew Mr. Porter, who was a fellow priest who served at a South End parish when Monsignor Coleman was at St. Kilian's in New Bedford, only a few miles away.
"I knew he was in St. James parish," Monsignor Coleman said. "I don't ever recall speaking with him."
Monsignor Coleman's first assignment as a priest was at St. Kilian's from 1965 to 1967.
Mr. Porter, 68, is serving an 18- to 20-year prison sentence, after pleading
guilty in 1993 to charges he molested 28 children.
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