Church Hot-Line Furor
By Heidi Singer
New York Post
August 31, 2004
August 30, 2004 -- Parishioners calling a new Brooklyn Diocese hotline to report pervert priests will now talk to a lawyer instead of a well-regarded therapist who once took such calls.
Abuse victims are accusing the diocese of intimidation with false promises of help.
"We think it's just abominable," fumed David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. "Victims are hurting, frightened people who need sensitive skilled mental-health professionals to help them - not a lawyer to intimidate them."
The hot line was established Aug. 6 by the diocese's new bishop, Nicholas DiMarzio, who set up a similar attorney-run victims' line that sparked controversy in Camden, N.J., two years ago.
In the New Jersey case, callers were routed to a law office, angering survivors who called the process intimidating, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
DiMarzio - who was transferred to Brooklyn last year - and other officials touted the new hot line as a way to ease victims' anxiety, since the lawyer, John Kuremelis, is not a diocese staff member.
Before the hot line was created, abuse victims had been encouraged to call Sister Ellen Patricia Finn, whom the U.S. Conference of Bishops named as one of 10 model victim-assistance coordinators across the country, according to the Catholic News Service.
Now, Kuremelis will field initial calls and refer people to Finn and prosecutors.
The diocese is already staggering under the burden of the scandal, which intensified earlier this month when prosecutors took up a sex-abuse complaint that church officials already had dismissed. The Brooklyn DA charged a priest, Joseph Byrns, with sexually abusing an 11-year old boy in his parish.
The alleged abuse occurred just before Byrns was removed from his duties - and five years after he was first hit with a complaint, from a former altar boy who became a priest himself.
With Post Wire Services
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