Catholic Aid Group for Abused Asks Funds
'The Farm' Set up As Retreat for Victims

By Ellen R. Stapleton
Associated Press, carried in Lexington Herald-Leader [Louisville KY]
Downloaded May 22, 2004

LOUISVILLE - After months of lining up support from Roman Catholic bishops, the founders of a national retreat center for victims of sexual abuse by priests are launching public fund-raising efforts.

The Farm, which began operating in Crestwood outside Louisville in April, has received donations from 20 religious orders and 30 bishops so far, said Susan Archibald, head of The Linkup, the advocacy group that runs the center.

Donors included Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul and Minneapolis, head of the national bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, and the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, an umbrella organization for religious orders in the United States.

Four bishops didn't send church funds but wrote personal checks instead, Archibald said.

Archibald didn't want to disclose the amounts of individual contributions, but she said the total was $100,000. She thinks a $1 million annual budget for The Farm would be ideal.

"We're used to operating on a shoestring," Archibald said. "But the more we have, the more we can do."

The money will be used to pay for programs and staff at The Farm, and the rest will help pay victims' travel costs.

The first public fund-raiser was planned for last night at an American Legion post in Louis-ville. Two bands, with some Catholic members, agreed to perform for free. Tickets were $20 at the door.

The 243 plaintiffs who settled with the Archdiocese of Louisville for $25.7 million almost a year ago were invited to attend, said Jeanette Westbrook, a social worker who is Linkup's program coordinator.

About 100 tickets were sold in advance, and many were given away to victims to share with friends, whether Catholic or non-Catholic, Westbrook said.

The Linkup will continue to solicit donations from the 195 dioceses in the United States, Archibald said. A parish in Chicago took a collection specifically for The Farm at a Mass this month, she said. Bishop Ronald Gainer in the Diocese of Lexington, which covers 50 counties in Central and Eastern Kentucky, has encouraged individual parishes to invite Linkup members to visit.

"In his contact with The Linkup leadership, he's been positively impressed with their efforts to aid victims in their healing and help them reconnect with the church," said Tom Shaughnessy, a diocesan spokesman.

A Corbin priest has welcomed those from The Farm to sell bread at his parish as a fund-raiser, she said. The Farm has two bakeries run by businessman Michael Turner, one of the first to claim in a lawsuit that the Louisville archdiocese covered up abuse by priests.

Westbrook, who was spearheading the sale of fund-raiser tickets, said she was disappointed with what she perceived as a lack of interest among Louis-ville Catholics.

She said she's had some "pretty bizarre reactions." She said many church members denied the seriousness of the abuse, saying no priests in Louisville would commit such crimes. The Louisville archdiocese acknowledged in February that 40 of its 700 priests have been accused of sexual abuse since 1950.

Westbrook remembers some Catholics asking her, "Why are you calling them survivors? That's for people like those who survived 9/11."

"I took that opportunity to educate. I said, 'These people are crime victims. They survived, and with support and therapy they may be able to transcend their abuse.'"