The Millstone: a Monument to Victims of Priest Abuse

By In-Sung Yoo
USA Today [New Jersey]
Downloaded December 16, 2003

When a millstone-shaped monument is installed next spring on the grounds of the Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph in Mendham, N.J., the pain it memorializes will not be that of death, but of the struggle to reclaim life.

The 400-pound basalt sculpture, commissioned by former parishioner Bill Crane, will stand as a monument to victims of child sexual abuse by priests. Crane is one of more than 20 people who say they were abused there and at another area church in the 1970s and early '80s by former priest James Hanley, who was forced to retire in 1988. Hanley was formally removed from the priesthood in March but was never criminally prosecuted because the New Jersey statute of limitations had run out.

The Millstone is the first and only monument in the nation in remembrance of clergy abuse, say officials of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

Crane and other survivors came up with the monument idea at the funeral of a childhood friend and fellow St. Joseph parishioner, James Thomas Kelly, 37, who committed suicide in October.

Crane, coordinator of the Oregon chapter of SNAP, went home to Clackamas, Ore., and got in touch with local sculptor Mark McLean, who developed the monument and a memorial garden with landscaper Toni Hartung.

The millstone idea is from the Gospel of Matthew, in which Jesus says that if anyone causes a child to sin, "it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

Crane sees the words as a "message of admonishment" to church leaders and a "message of comfort to children in knowing how they're to be protected."

Both Monsignor Kenneth Lasch, St. Joseph pastor, and Bishop Frank Rodimer have expressed support for monument plans. "It would hopefully serve as a sign of their healing and survival, and a tribute to them for what they have endured," Lasch says.

But the wording on the plaque is still being finalized; Lasch is wary of having the message come across as too harsh.

"(Jesus) goes on in the same chapter to talk about forgiveness, healing and reconciliation," Lasch says. "So we want the message to be comprehensive, and for people in the parish to be able to look at that with great pride, so that it doesn't come as a chastisement of the people of St. Joseph, but as a due recognition of what they have been doing to contribute to the healing process."

He says the community has been open to the idea of the monument. Crane is collecting donations to help cover the $5,000 cost.

"Something needed to be done to commemorate survivors," says Crane, and the monument is "a physical touch-point" that can help "move in a direction of healing."


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