Summit to Look at Sex Abuse
350 May Attend, Including 100 from Diocese of Phoenix

By Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
May 20, 2004

The head of the U.S. Catholic Bishops Office of the Child and Youth Protection will be in Phoenix today for a long-awaited summit on sexual abuse.

The summit, put on by the Diocese of Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, will complete the final requirement of the immunity agreement between Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien and Rick Romley, the county attorney. In that agreement, O'Brien admitted endangering children and quietly transferring priests accused of sexual misconduct.

O'Brien resigned two weeks after signing the agreement after he was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He is serving his sentence of four years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service.

Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, who replaced O'Brien as bishop, said the summit is designed for individuals who work on sexual-abuse issues daily.

"Sexual abuse has not only impacted our Catholic Church and other faith communities, it touches all parts of our society: youth sports, Scouts, schools, day-care centers, homes, any place where our children and youth gather to play, learn, live and trust," Olmsted said. "We need to do all that is possible to ensure that this trust will never be broken again."

As many as 350 may attend, organizers said, including clergy, victims, law enforcement officials, counselors and others. About 100 representatives of the Diocese of Phoenix will attend, said public information officer Mary Jo West.

Opening remarks will be given by Olmsted and Romley.

Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the national youth-protection office, will deliver the keynote address as the first item on the summit agenda.

It is called "Finding the Facts: Implications From Studies of Sexual Abuse of Minors in the Catholic Church of the United States."

McChesney, formerly the third-highest official in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, presided over the February release of two major studies on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Her talk will be followed by a general session led by Dr. Ann Burgess of the Boston College School of Nursing. Burgess will speak about issues and trends in the sexual abuse of children.

Burgess is an expert on the sexual abuse of children and crisis intervention. She served on former Boston Cardinal Bernard Law's Commission for the Protection of Children.

Two breakout sessions will take place after lunch. Most of them will feature attorneys from the County Attorney's Office and local psychology practitioners. McChesney and Burgess also will take part in breakout sessions.

Many of them focus on the legal aspects of sexual abuse of children. Others look at psychological aspects of abuse.

The "Together, We Can Make a Difference" summit runs from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Black Canyon Conference Center, 9440 N. 25th Ave., Phoenix. The cost is $25 per person for non-profit organizations; $40 for government, business, public.

Information: 1-800-377-4734 or (602) 354-2484.


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