Victims’ Group Vexed over Failure to See Bishop

Toledo Blade [Toledo OH]
Downloaded March 10, 2004

Members of a victims’ advocacy group yesterday expressed frustration over their inability to meet with Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair.

At a news conference outside the Catholic Center in downtown Toledo, Barbara Blaine, founder and national president of SNAP; her sisters, Marian Blaine and Marcia Holtz, and Claudia Vercellotti, the local group’s co-coordinator, said they have traded 14 letters with the bishop since November trying to iron out details for a face-to-face meeting.

At one point last month, Bishop Blair and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests tentatively scheduled a meeting for yesterday afternoon.

But that session fell through when the diocese requested that an "independent facilitator" attend the talks.

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The letters between SNAP and the bishop’s office also have disputed such points as when and where the meeting would take place, which individuals would be allowed to attend, and whether the media would be present.

Bishop Blair, installed as bishop of Toledo on Dec. 4, has asked SNAP to list its "points of discussion" beforehand, and said it would be inappropriate for SNAP members who are suing the diocese to attend the meeting.

Sally Oberski, director of communications for the Toledo diocese, said after SNAP’s news conference that Bishop Blair remains determined to meet with leaders of the victims’ group once the details are settled.

"The bishop does want to have this meeting," Ms. Oberski said. "He hopes that through time and prayer and through defining the parameters of this meeting that it will happen. It is very important to him."

Ms. Oberski reiterated that Bishop Blair has mailed letters to victims of clerical sexual abuse inviting them to meet with him on an individual basis.

Barbara Blaine, a former Toledoan and member of St. Pius X parish who now lives in Chicago, said Bishop Blair has yet to back up his words with deeds.

"Right now, we’re supposed to be sitting in a meeting," Ms. Vercellotti said. "But things went very awry."

"Bishop Blair says nice words, lofty words, words of compassion and openness. Yet Bishop Blair’s actions tell a different story," she said.

"His actions so far have not been consistent with his words. But we believe that Bishop Blair can do better," she said.


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