Group Calls on Archbishop to Publicize Information on Allegedly Abusive Priest

Daily News Tribune [Boston MA]
Downloaded August 6, 2003

BOSTON -- A group representing victims of clergy sexual abuse is calling on Boston's new archbishop to post notices in parish bulletins about an allegedly abusive priest.

The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests is asking Archbishop Sean O'Malley to place notices in parish bulletins in Fall River encouraging any victims of the Rev. Donald Bowen to come forward. The group also wants O'Malley to contact parishioners in 25 remote Bolivian villages where Bowen worked after leaving Fall River.

Bowen has been accused of molesting a girl for several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He is currently free on bail as he awaits a criminal trial.

The alleged victim settled her lawsuit against the Fall River diocese in January 1992, seven months before O'Malley became the bishop there.

According to John Kearns, a spokesman for the Fall River Diocese, Bowen's superiors at the Society of James in Bolivia told O'Malley that Bowen's main duty was preparing a history of the society and that he would not have any contact with children.

Leaders of the New England chapter of SNAP sent O'Malley a letter on Monday, calling his handling of the Bowen case "troubling," and saying he hadn't done enough to make sure Bowen was kept away from children.

"'I thought someone else was taking care of that' is not a good response or defense in any situation. It is particularly inadequate and disappointing when the subject is the sexual abuse of children and the speaker is a bishop," wrote Ann Hagan Webb and William Gately, the New England coordinators of SNAP.

O'Malley was installed as Boston's new archbishop last week, replacing Cardinal Bernard Law, who resigned in December after criticism of his handling of the clergy sex abuse crisis.

When asked about the Bowen case last month, Kearns said that Bowen's superiors in Bolivia guaranteed periodic evaluation of Bowen and that he would have no contact with children. Kearns said the alleged victim was satisfied with O'Malley's response when she met with him in 1994.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, a spokesman for the Boston archdiocese, was out of the office this week and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

After O'Malley helped the Diocese of Fall River emerge from the scandal caused by a serial pedophile priest, the Rev. James Porter, he was sent to Palm Beach, Fla., to steer that diocese through similar troubles. The two previous bishops of Palm Beach had resigned after being accused of sexual abuse.


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