Church Abuse Scandal the Subject of Sermons, Demonstrations
By Ken Maguire
Associated Press, carried in Boston Globe [United States]
February 29, 2004
BOSTON (AP) Roman Catholics confronted the problem of clergy sex abuse from pulpits, at protests and in parishes on Sunday, two days after the release of reports outlining the scandal's scope and the church's failure to protect children.
While some victims took to the streets in protest, claiming the church hierarchy was trying to whitewash the problem, others said they felt relieved the church is coming to terms with the issue.
"I don't want it to go away," said Maurice Smith, 52, a Boston resident who attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "The more we address it, the more we can feel it's not going to be swept under a rug or covered up."
Two church-sanctioned studies were released Friday by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by church bishops. One, compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found there had been more than 10,000 abuse claims from 1950 to 2002.
"We must pray ourselves out of this wilderness," said Monsignor Richard Sniezyk, who was installed administrator of the Springfield Diocese in February after Bishop Thomas Dupre resigned in the face of abuse allegations. "We need not panic. We need to pray."
Nancy Fitzpatrick, 44, a registered nurse who attended a service at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, called the report's numbers "shocking."
"But I do think the church is doing its best to address this," she said. "Releasing these figures means they're acknowledging how big a problem this is, and that's a good step."
Others feared the church might not have given a full account of the abuse claims.
"It's just staggering the numbers of people who were abused," said Joan Smola, 59, of Hadley, who attended a vigil for victims in Springfield. "Do we know whether all of the dioceses were honest in what they put in their reports? I'm sure there are many victims who have not come forward."
About 100 victims and their supporters marched Sunday in Boston from Holy Cross to the Statehouse to urge Gov. Mitt Romney to appoint a clergy abuse task force to oversee the church in Massachusetts, where the sex abuse scandal erupted with reports in the Boston archdiocese.
Organizers said the church should reveal information about priests who are no longer in ministry and live in the community, but acknowledged there may be legal roadblocks because most accused priests were not convicted.
"The solution can't be merely to respect the civil liberties of these men and let kids get raped," said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of the Coalition of Catholics and Survivors. "We can do better than that."
Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said Sunday that the Republican governor would consider the group's request, but wouldn't elaborate.
Along with the John Jay College report, the second report examines the causes of the molestation crisis, putting much of the blame on American bishops for not cracking down on errant priests.
In that report, the National Review Board pointed out the evolution of the crisis in the Boston archdiocese, where the crisis exploded following the revelation that the late defrocked priest John Geoghan had been shuffled among parishes despite allegations of abuse.
"The picture that emerged was that of a diocese with a cadre of predator priests and a hierarchy that simply refused to confront them and stop them," the report said.
Robert Bennett, the lay person who oversaw the study, said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that he thinks bishops who sheltered guilty priests should resign.
The lay reform group Voice of the Faithful, which was created in response to the abuse scandal, took out a full-page advertisement in The New York Times urging Pope John Paul II to seek resignations from bishops who "knowingly transferred sexually abusive clergy."
Cardinal Bernard Law, who was archbishop of Boston when the crisis erupted in his archdiocese, is the only church leader who has stepped down over transferring predator clergy from parish to parish.
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