Diocese Turns down Request for Free Ad

By Tony LaRussa
Tribune-Review [Pittsburgh PA]
March 6, 2004

An advocacy group for victims of clergy sex abuse asked Pittsburgh Bishop Donald W. Wuerl Friday for a full page of free advertising space in the diocesan newspaper to help inform victims that independent help is available from the organization.

Diocesan officials say they prefer to deal directly with victims who need help.

The request for free ad space was made by the leaders of Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests -- SNAP -- in response to a half-hour program hosted by Wuerl that aired on KDKA-Channel 2 Thursday evening. The Pittsburgh diocese produced the program and paid KDKA to broadcast it.

The program included panelists ranging from a psychotherapist from a leading treatment center for sex offenders to a lawyer who has handled more than 500 cases of clergy sex abuse. The program was developed to provide further explanation of the findings in a national report released last week on sex abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy.

The lack of victims or their advocates on the panel drew sharp criticism from SNAP officials.

"Wuerl will spend thousands of parishioners' dollars in the court of public opinion to discuss the clergy abuse crises," said David Clohessy, SNAP's national director. "As shepherd of the Pittsburgh flock, he sent a terrible message ... that clergy abuse survivors are unworthy of being heard."

The Rev. Ron Lengwin, spokesman for the diocese, said the diocese helps victims rather than directing them to other organizations for help. He declined to say how much the diocese paid to air the program.

"Since the bishop first came here, it has been his practice to meet personally with victims and to offer them counseling," Lengwin said. "We are prepared to meet with anyone who wants to come forward."


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