Local Report Generates Little Reaction
By Kevin Luperchio
The Catholic Free Press [Worcester MA]
Downloaded February 20, 2004
A bishop’s report on clergy sexual abuse of minors has generated little reaction around the diocese.
The report, published in a pastoral letter last week, outlines child sexual abuse allegations against clergy to the diocese’s establishment in 1950. It included the number of priests accused of sexual abuse (45), the total number of allegations reported to the diocese (112), and the amount of money the diocese has paid in settlements ($2.28 million).
Raymond L. Delisle, diocesan director of communications, and Patricia Engdahl, director of the diocese’s Office for Healing and Prevention, said they received no inquiries or feedback from the report. The Office for Healing and Prevention, established as a response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis, provides outreach to survivors of sexual abuse and works to educate the public about the issue surrounding such abuse.
Mrs. Engdahl said the lack of response to the bishop’s report suggests that “people’s questions are being answered. We are giving people the information they are looking for.”
Msgr. Thomas J Sullivan, diocesan chancellor, said he thinks people find the diocese report credible, especially in light of the separate report released weeks earlier by District Attorney John J. Conte.
That report, which reviewed the district attorney’s investigation into clergy sexual abuse of minors and adults in all area faith communities, “was almost identical to the diocese’s report,” Msgr. Sullivan said.
Father Henry A. Donoghue, pastor of St. George Parish in Worcester, said he thought the bishop’s report, was very well done.
Father Donoghue said the fact that the report covered the entire 53 year-history of the diocese provided an overall context from which to examine the problem of clergy sexual abuse in the local church.
“People have a tendency to get caught up” and assume the problem is more widespread than it is, he said.
The report, which is available onlive at www.worcesterdiocese.org, noted that the 45 priests accused of sexual abuse against minors came from a total of 1,506 priests who ministered in the diocese between 1950 and 2003.
“It gives perspective,” the pastor said.
David Lewcon, a local victim of clergy sexual abuse and member of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, said the report left him with several questions.
The main questions, he said, are how long the diocese took to remove priests who were accused of sexual abuse and whether the diocese used money from the Bishop’s Fund to pay victim’s settlements.
Bishop Reilly, in the report, said settlements were paid using a combination of insurance money and the his discretionary funds.
“No donations to the Bishop’s Fund, or parish contributions to the diocese known as the cathedraticum, or gifts to the Forward in Faith capital campaign were used for anything other than their designated purpose,” the bishop said in the report.
Mr. Lewcon also said the numbers of clergy accused of abuse seemed low though he said he couldn’t dispute them without conducting a study of his own.
He said his skepticism stems from his own experiences as an abuse victim.
John R. Ford, a member of the steering committee of Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Worcester, said his organization was waiting to see the results of the so-called John Jay study before commenting on the issue.
The study, led by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University in New York, will examine national statistics on incidents, offenders and victims of sexual abuse nationwide between 1950 and 2002; it is set to be released on Feb. 27.
A draft leaked to some media outlets noted that roughly 4,450 clergy have been accused of abusing a total of 11,000 minors in the U.S. between 1950 and 2002
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