Catholics Speak out on Abuse

By Sara Leaming
Spokesman-Review [Spokane WA]
August 26, 2003

About 30 people crowded into the basement of St. Aloysius Catholic Church on Monday night, hoping to hear the truth.

In the question-and-answer meeting with the Rev. Steve Dublinski, members of the Voice of the Faithful got a chance to question the vicar general about how the hierarchy within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane has handled, and plans to handle, cases of sexual abuse by clergy.

"Basically, we didn't learn anything from him tonight, but I think he learned a lot from us," said Michael Ross, co-founder of Spokane's Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests.

The VOTF -- an international lay organization formed in January -- wants church leaders to be more accountable, and to involve parishioners in church governance.

They also want the church to admit its response to abusive clergy members was wrong.

During the two-hour meeting Monday, members of the VOTF grilled Dublinski, waiting for him to address what they believe is a lack of accountability on the part of the church.

"We still have a long way to go," Dublinski told the group, made up partly of victims and family members of victims. "I agree, we need to do more."

Dublinski asked the group to provide him with "concrete steps," or concerns and suggestions that he can take back to the bishop for discussion.

"I think it is very helpful for people to talk about this," Dublinski said. "What needs to happen is a conversion of heart" on the part of the priests and clergy.

But many in the group were not satisfied with Dublinski's response.

"People are starting to speak out, and that's the only reason the church is dealing with it," said Molly Harding, another co-founder of Spokane's survivors network. "It's not a conversion of heart."

The group also asked Dublinski who was going to pay for the millions of dollars being paid in sexual abuse lawsuits against the church.

Dublinski said that while the diocese is working on a plan that includes selling some assets, like property, ultimately the payments could come from money borrowed from the parishes.

" (The money) doesn't belong to the diocese, it belongs to the people," said an angry Val Pember, a Colville resident who helped organize the VOTF.

Pember also asked Dublinski about the details surrounding the protective order filed in Spokane County Superior Court by the diocese last week, asking a judge to prevent the release of pretrial information in two clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.

The two cases are against the diocese and Patrick O'Donnell, a priest removed from the ministry in 1986.

Many in the group thought the protective order reaffirmed their belief that the church is trying to cover up the allegations of abuse.

"There is some information that has been asked for that is not relevant to the cases," Dublinski said. The diocese feels that some private information about the priests needs to be kept private, he said.

"I just can't walk away from this meeting with a sense of hope," Harding said. "It's just insulting. We know nothing is going to be done."

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