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  Separate Funds Aid Victims, Ousted Clergy Dallas Priests Contribute Money for Counseling; Amarillo Bishop Raises Cash for Fallen Priests

By Susan Hogan Albach
May 8, 2004
Catholic priests in Dallas are raising money to help sexual abuse victims. In Amarillo, a retired bishop is soliciting funds for predatory priests removed from ministry.

The Dallas priests are donating money to pay the counseling expenses of anyone sexually abused by a church official or employee. The newly created Lazarus Fund, named for the New Testament figure whom Jesus raised from the dead, collected nearly $2,000 in its first month.

The Rev. Robert Williams, pastor of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Garland, initiated the fund. He asked priests to donate $100 monthly, or whatever they could, on a continuing basis.

"This is coming out of our own pockets, not any parish funds," he said. "It's showing that we're not just rallying around each other, but we're concerned about the victims."

The donations by priests, which are anonymous, go directly to the diocese.

"I don't know who's contributing," Father Williams said. "The diocese is going to let us know how many people receive services. The money goes to the counseling, not the individual victims."

Father Williams was a whistleblower in the scandals involving Rudy Kos, a former priest now in prison for molesting altar boys in three parishes. Father Williams - who initially said he did not want his name used in this story - said the priests weren't seeking publicity for their fund.

Other priests said the fund was welcome, but declined to say whether they donated, stressing the importance of the anonymity behind the project.

"I'm not surprised that it's the priests and not bishops who have taken this initiative," said David Clohessy, president of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "I certainly hope other priests would emulate them."

The diocese offers counseling to sexual abuse victims, though it isn't always accepted, said spokesman Bronson Havard. Victims' attorneys say the diocese has sometimes put restrictions on counseling that made it unappealing.

A similar fund was started by priests in Rapid City, S.D. That money, however, goes for counseling of victims and abusive priests. The Dallas fund is exclusively for victims.

In the Amarillo diocese, retired Bishop Leroy Matthiesen launched the Priests Emergency Relief Fund. He's raising money for three priests removed from ministry for sexual misconduct after U.S. bishops adopted a "zero tolerance" policy two years ago.

The fund is a personal initiative, not sanctioned by the diocese. The bishop said he's trying to provide temporary financial aid for the men until they are able to support themselves.

"I can't see these men just tossed aside," the bishop said. "I admire them tremendously. Their faith is alive and their love of God is still very deep. The impression being given is that these priests are guilty until proven innocent."

One of them, John Salazar, has been jailed at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in Dallas after being charged last fall with assaulting an 18-year-old male in Irving. Father Salazar had a prison record for child abuse in California before serving as a priest in Amarillo under Bishop Matthiesen.

The other priests are Dennis Boylan and Jim Hutzler.

During his 17 years leading the Amarillo diocese, Bishop Matthiesen hired at least six priests treated for sexual abuse at centers in New Mexico and Maryland. He said he thought they'd recovered and offered a solution to the priest shortage.

"I called them wounded healers," the bishop said. "I never had any regrets about taking them."

 
 

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