Archbishop Addresses Abuse at Southern Oregon Service

The Associated Press, carried in [Medford OR]
October 7, 2004

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) Portland Archbishop John G. Vlazny told parishioners in Southern Oregon that they must come to grips with the fact that many girls and boys were sexually abused by members of the clergy.

Vlazny also acknowledged that church leaders failed to appropriately respond to the behavior.

"They were allowed to carry out their criminal behavior without adequate restraint or correction," Vlazny more than 150 parishioners at Sacred Heart Church in Medford.

Vlazny's remarks came during a special Ember Day service of fasting and reconciliation for abuse victims, the first Vlazny has held since the Archdiocese of Portland filed in July for bankruptcy protection against some 70 lawsuits demanding $340 million in claims.

Vlazny apologized to all victims of child sexual abuse, and vowed to change the culture of the church community.

"We are unwilling to accept that the way things were in the past is the way things will be in the future," Vlazny said.

Vlazny's appearance focused on spiritual, not financial atonement. He said nothing of the archdiocese's battle to limit damages for the sex-abuse plaintiffs.

Lawyers for the archdiocese, the plaintiffs and a group representing parishes quarreled this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Lawyers for the alleged victims contend that assets of all property registered to the archdiocese be made available for claims. Lawyers for the archdiocese and the parish group argued that the properties properly belong to the parishes and are held in trust by the archdiocese.

Visitors to Wednesday's service said they welcomed Vlazny's presence and his remorse.

"I thought it was really nice that he made the trip down to Southern Oregon," said Melissa York, a young mother. "I'm sure there are victims here feeling the peace from this."

Organist Lionel Nightingale, who accompanies services every Sunday at Sacred Heart, said he liked Vlazny's message, but wasn't as supportive of the decision to file for bankruptcy.

"They should face the music," Nightingale said. "The mother church could help. They've got bucks."


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