Sex Abuse by Clergy Prompts Flyer Drive

By Brian Harmon
New York Daily News [Long Island NY]
November 11, 2004

Men and women sexually abused by Catholic priests pledged yesterday to stand outside of Long Island churches and hand out leaflets urging other victims to come forward.

Convinced that only a fraction of the people victimized by pedophile priests have actually gone to the police, Long Island Voice of the Faithful and Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests will urge anyone with information about priest-related abuse to talk.

"Just how many are there that we'll never know about because they're dead or they're in mental institutions or they're in prison?" asked David Cerulli, executive director of SNAP's New York region.

The Lost Sheep campaign will begin Sunday at churches where molesters have worked, Cerulli said.

The flyers will urge victims to report the abuse to law enforcement officials. The flip side of the leaflet will detail a case of a known abusive clergyman.

"We want people to come forward," Cerulli said. "And we want to tell them that there is a safe place to go for help and support."

The Catholic Church's international sexual abuse scandal hit hard in Long Island's Diocese of Rockville Centre, where it became known that at least 132 people have accused 66 priests of sexual misconduct since 1957. The allegations prompted a special grand jury investigation in Suffolk.

Still, the thought of the victims' groups giving flyers detailing abuse to churchgoers as they exit Sunday Mass vexes diocese officials.

"We're perplexed by their actions," said Sean Dolan, spokesman for Bishop William Murphy. "It does a disservice to the diocese because they're spreading falsehoods. The implication is that we're not doing anything."

Dolan said that the Long Island diocese, which covers 1.3 million Catholics in Nassau and Suffolk counties, was recognized this month for being in full compliance with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The bishop's spokesman also said that the diocese conducted more than 22,500 criminal background checks in the past year. Many of the checks are of parents and others who volunteer at least one day in the Catholic schools.

"Sometimes, you can't please everyone," Dolan added.

But the victims' advocate groups said the diocese is not doing enough for abuse survivors.

They want Murphy to make announcements in the diocesan newspaper, parish bulletins and pulpits urging anyone who has witnessed, suspected or experienced abuse to contact police.

"Bishop Murphy's plan is clear: He wants to passively wait and hope this whole crisis just blows over," Cerulli said.

"We are convinced other victims are still overwhelmed with shame and self-blame, and will remain silent unless they're ... compassionately invited to get help."


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