Abuse Victims Hold Service

By Sheila Hotchkin
San Antonio Express-News [San Antonio TX]
February 21, 2004

The Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio and an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse by priests joined Friday night to hold a candlelight healing service at Mission Concepcion.

The service organized by the San Antonio chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests featured prayers, music and Bible readings. Monsignor Lawrence Stuebben, the archdiocese's vicar general, took part.

"If it heals one person tonight, that makes the biggest difference in the world," said Barbara Garcia Boehland, director of the San Antonio chapter.

Garcia Boehland's 20-year-old son committed suicide in 1997, several years after being molested by a priest while a student at St. Anthony's High School Seminary.

A few dioceses nationwide, including the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., have participated in such services, said David Clohessy, executive director of the group's national office.

But he said the services are "certainly not common," because the last thing most bishops want is to give cases of priest sex abuse more visibility.

"Sadly, most bishops still treat abuse victims like the enemy and prefer to talk one on one behind closed doors when survivors push for some compassionate response," Clohessy said.

"Any time there's a loss of this magnitude, it can only be positive when that loss is acknowledged."

The San Antonio Archdiocese did not hesitate when approached by the local chapter about the service, said Deacon Pat Rodgers, a spokesman for the archdiocese.

"Of course we said absolutely yes, we'd be there," Rodgers said. "We have the same goals. We want people to be survivors. We want them to heal."

The service included Bible passages from the books of Proverbs, Wisdom, Baruch and Sirach. Contemporary readings, including victims' stories, also were incorporated. The group Covita played music.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.