Priest-Abuse Victims Get Cool Reception at Mass
By Joseph B. Frazier
The Associated Press
August 5, 2004
PORTLAND -- Victims of priest abuse got a lukewarm reception yesterday when they passed out leaflets to a handful of worshippers at noon Mass, urging them to see the issue from the victims' point of view.
Many refused the leaflets. "I don't want to get involved in any of this," said one woman as she climbed the steps to the 110-year-old Holy Rosary Church in northeast Portland.
"Why are you at this church?" parishioner Andre Hesser asked. "Why don't you go down to the cathedral? This is the holiest of churches."
"It was in the holiest of churches that we were raped and abused," said Barbara Blaine, 48, of Chicago, president of the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
"How do I know who you are?" asked another man who took a leaflet, folded it and agreed to pray for abuse victims.
SNAP, which Blaine founded in 1989, claims about 5,000 members in more than 70 cities.
She said Holy Rosary was not selected because of problems with priests there -- but because it had a noon Mass that made parishioners available.
"We are concerned that the bishop has set the tone, and it seems as though most parishioners see us as the enemy," she said. "We were raped and sexually assaulted by priests we trusted and whom our parents trusted. We're asking that people at least understand the perspective of the victim."
She said that her organization is "actually a gift to the church. If people hadn't spoken out the priests would still be out there abusing children."
The Portland-based archdiocese for western Oregon has filed for bankruptcy protection because of abuse-related lawsuits, the first in the nation to do so.
Church archivist Jimmy Delgado said Holy Rosary is one of a very few in the archdiocese not vulnerable to settlements because it is owned by the Dominican order, not by the archdiocese.
Blaine said she was abused over a period of years as a teenager in Toledo, Ohio, beginning in 1969 when she was 13. She said she kept it a secret until 1985.
She remains a practicing Catholic, she said.
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