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  Many Abusive Priests Remain in Their Posts, Victims Advocates Say
St. Louis Archdiocese Is Criticized As Slow to Tell Settlement Amounts

By James Collins
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
July 30, 2002

Six weeks after America's Roman Catholic bishops formally pledged to protect children from abuse by priests, many of the nation's dioceses have failed to remove sexual offenders from their ministries, three leading advocates for molestation victims said Monday.

"These men need to be removed so children can be safe," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

At a meeting June 14 in Dallas, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops approved a formal charter to protect children. The charter contains a series of measures that require individual bishops to discipline abusive priests.

Clohessy and other members of the Survivors Network will meet today in Washington with members of a lay review board that the church has appointed to monitor the bishops' handling of sexual abuse cases. The panel was set up at the Dallas meeting.

Clohessy's organization, SNAP, does not have a seat on the panel, but the group's leaders will be allowed to speak for 30 minutes and then respond to questions.

At the press conference Monday, Clohessy said many bishops were lax in complying with a provision of the charter that requires all dioceses to disclose in detail the amount of money spent on cash settlements with victims of alleged abuse.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis, he said, has been "dismal" in its move to provide a breakdown of the money spent on settlements.

"St. Louis is just doing a miserable job at openness," said Clohessy, who is from St. Louis. "Almost seven weeks ago in Dallas, the bishops made a long list of promises. We've seen a number of very clear gross violations that put children at risk."

The Diocese of Belleville, headed by Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been far more forthcoming, Clohessy said.

Under the guidelines accepted at the conference, bishops must promptly remove priests who admit to molesting children.

Clohessy said that bishops in Chicago, Milwaukee and Tulsa, Okla., have been unacceptably slow in removing pedophile priests, and in some cases have not removed such offenders at all.

Clohessy attacked St. Louis archdiocesan officials for their unwillingness to take action against the Rev. Bruce Forman, a priest who was accused in 1992 of sexually abusing a minor.

A court later dismissed the charges against Forman, who is pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in St. Louis. But molestation victims advocates say the church should conduct its own investigation.

The archdiocese says there is not enough evidence to remove Forman. "Based on the information the archdiocese has, this is considered to be an unsubstantiated case," said Jim Orso, archdiocesan spokesman.

The archdiocese is reviewing the $1.6 million it paid to alleged victims of sexual misconduct by clerics over the past 20 years, Orso said. The total amount was announced in March.

 
 

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