Diocese Asked for Advocate

By Bill Zajac
The Republican
June 23, 2004

SPRINGFIELD - Martin P. Bono of Chicopee knows suicides, financial woes and job problems plagued many clergy sexual abuse victims in the Archdiocese of Boston after 500 or so lawsuits were settled last year.

In an effort to avoid those problems from plaguing victims in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Bono wants the diocese to provide a grant to fund a survivor advocate who can link victims with needed services.

"Someone may be in need of family counseling or transitional assistance or job training. They may need to be pointed in the right direction. Maybe they will need help with an addiction," said Bono, one of about 60 people seeking clergy sexual-abuse settlements in the Springfield diocese.

If a survivor advocate had been in place in Boston, many problems encountered by clergy abuse victims could have been avoided, according to Bono. He has been developing the idea for the advocate through discussions with several clergy abuse victims from Boston.

"The day after the settlements here, victims are still going to have the same problems they had before the settlement, except they will need advice in handling money," said Bono. He said many victims in Boston have spent their settlements in less than a year.

"I don't want to see that happen here," Bono said. "Money is not going to solve anyone's problems."

While several people see a survival advocate as ground- breaking in the national church scandal; others have some concerns about it.

The Most Rev. Timothy A. McDonnell, the bishop of the Springfield diocese, refused comment, although he has had several discussions about it with Bono.

David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, was cautious about the idea.

"There is no denying that victims need services, and any independence from church officials is good. But ... there is such a great temptation to find a panacea that I caution people against getting their hopes up," Clohessy said.

Greenfield lawyer John J. Stobierski, who represents Bono and 45 or so other alleged clergy abuse victims, praised the idea.

"Every victim has different needs, and any help out there that can help bring them closer to help meet those needs is valuable," Stobierski said.

Bono said he hopes the diocese funds the position through a grant and that the person can operate under the auspices of a nondiocesan health and human service referral service such as ServiceNet.


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