Priest Honored by Victims' Group

By Bill Zajac
The Republican [Washington DC]
November 13, 2003

WASHINGTON, D.C. - An East Longmeadow, Mass., priest is one of six Roman Catholic priests who were honored yesterday for their work on behalf of clergy sexual abuse victims by a national organization that provides support to victims.

The Rev. James J. Scahill, pastor of St. Michael's Parish, was honored in a brief ceremony by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) outside the site of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference here.

David Clohessy, national director of the network, said Scahill and the five others were recognized by clergy sexual abuse victims to bring attention to their work and urge U.S. bishops to reform their policies regarding abuse.

Scahill is on retreat this week and didn't attend the ceremony. However, a tribute to him and the other five priests will be posted on the network's Web site.

"I would have been very honored to have been present among the victims in Washington," said Scahill, who was reached in Pennsylvania.

He urged the bishops to "employ more vigorously the gospel of Jesus to care for the least of my brethren who have victims numbered among them. They were not only sexually abused, but physically and spiritually abused," Scahill said.

Scahill said he accepted the honor in the names of all victims, some of whom he has met.

"I remain vigorous in my protest against the treatment the victims have received by our church," Scahill said.

Since June 2002, Scahill and his parish have been withholding the bishop's office portion of weekly collections to protest the financial support the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield has provided convicted child molester the Rev. Richard R. Lavigne, who has been a suspect in the 1972 unsolved murder of 13-year-old Daniel Croteau.

Susan F. Morris, who has filed a suit accusing Lavigne of sexually abusing her when she was a child, called Scahill courageous and brave.

"He has taken the initiative to step forward on behalf of those abused where other priests have remained silent," Morris said.

"When I met him a couple of months ago, he offered his support and prayers to me. This is what top church officials should have been doing," Morris said.

Morris, who is no longer a practicing Catholic because of the abuse, said that if she ever returned to the church, it would be to Scahill's parish.

"When I met him, I felt like he understood my pain," she said.

Scahill was the only priest from Massachusetts to be recognized.

Clohessy said Scahill will be invited to speak at the national convention of the network in June in Denver.


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