Diocese Wanted Her Out, Vocal Abuse Panelist Says

By Patrick Healy
The New York Times [Stony Brook NY]
December 18, 2003

TONY BROOK, N.Y., Dec. 17 The panel that reviews allegations of sexual abuse by Catholic priests on Long Island works in a secret world where members do not discuss investigations publicly, have agreed not to talk to reporters and even protested when the diocese wanted to use their names in a news release.

Now, one member of the review board says a top diocesan official has demanded that she step down because she publicly criticized the Diocese of Rockville Centre and its leader, Bishop William Murphy.

In interviews two weeks ago with Newsday and The New York Times, the board member, Lorraine Armet, criticized the church's response to a sexual-abuse lawsuit and said Bishop Murphy should pay victims restitution or resign.

Ms. Armet said on Wednesday that the Rev. Robert Batule, a church liaison to the 11-person review board, called her on Dec. 5. Father Batule thanked Ms. Armet for her service, she said, then told her that she was not allowed to speak with reporters and had to leave the panel.

"I felt I had the right to protest," said Ms. Armet, a nurse from Lindenhurst, N.Y. "I didn't work for the bishop."

A spokeswoman for the diocese confirmed the exchange between Ms. Armet and Father Batule, but said that Bishop Murphy the only one who can appoint or remove panel members had had no part in it. Bishop Murphy would not ask Ms. Armet to resign, said the spokeswoman, Joanne Novarro, and Ms. Armet is still a member of the panel.

The panel, like myriad others across the nation, was set up in 2002. The members are not diocesan officials and are not paid.

In October, more than 50 priests signed a letter to the bishop that expressed doubts about his leadership. The letter said that many priests and parishioners were unhappy with the way the bishop related to them.


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