Alleged Abuse Victims Renounce Their Faith

By Robin Washington
Boston Herald
July 31, 2003

As Sean P. O'Malley prepared to take his processional toward becoming archbishop of Boston, three alleged abuse victims announced a far different journey.

Before fellow victims and advocates yesterday, Steve Lewis, Skip Harrington and Robert Hatch publicly renounced their faith.

"This is a big thing for me. This isn't a stunt," said Lewis, an alleged victim of the Rev. Edward Kelley in Lynn three decades ago.

Until last year a Knights of Columbus member who once raised $5,000 for a right-to-life memorial, Lewis could have been as at home with the handful of anti-abortion protesters outside the church as he was with survivor groups.

"I think I still have faith in God, but I don't know where I'm going to go from here," he said.

One of the most vocal protesters, Lewis joined chants of "Shame, shame, jail jail!" as priests and bishops filed into the church.

Entering also was Gary Bergeron, breaking ranks with other fellow alleged victims. "I'm not looking for a hero. I'm looking for a leader," he said. "I'm looking for someone who will morally lead this church out of this crisis." But, he said, "He's got a tough road ahead of him. I don't think this is going to be fixed overnight."

Echoing that was the Rev. Robert Hoatson, a New Jersey priest fired from his school after testifying against Msgr. Frederick Ryan for plaintiffs Garry Garland and David Carney, who also attended.

"His talk was fine but tomorrow morning I hope he goes to the media and urges anyone who has ever been abused to come forward because there are thousands out there," Hoatson said.

Alleged victim Susan Renehan said survivor groups won't wait for O'Malley to act. "We're calling on him to meet with us in some neutral territory," she said, outlining five demands, including a call for O'Malley to back non-church victims' assistance programs and the repeal of statute of limitation laws for rape.

But others, including alleged Fall River Diocese victim Frank Fitzpatrick, held out less hope.

"O'Malley's put in place gagging provisions. That's why it was nice and quiet in Fall River," he said.

A smaller group of anti-abortion protesters also gathered, chastising O'Malley for offering the Eucharist to Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John Kerry. "They do not belong receiving communion. It's sacrilegious," said Ray Sylvain of Operation Rescue.

In contrast, a group from East Boston's Our Lady of Assumption Parish sang songs in support of O'Malley.


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