DIOCESE OF WORCESTER MA
By Martin Luttrell
While the diocese found that only 48 were substantiated and another 31 allegations were considered credible, an activist who works with victims of clergy sexual abuse said the numbers are higher than she had thought.
"What's new is that this is the first time we've pulled the numbers together and put them in one report," said diocese spokesman Raymond L. Delisle. "Previously, we had done this one at a time. We were doing this as part of a national study. We put it together and wanted to share that."
Bishop Daniel P. Reilly shared the text of the pastoral report yesterday with parishioners during Mass at St. Paul's Cathedral, which was videotaped and broadcast in the evening on WCTR-TV, Channel 3.
According to the diocese report, $2,280,833 has been paid in compensation to victims in settlements of abuses between 1950 and 2003. Of that, $1,469,000 came from insurance and $811,833 was paid directly by the diocese.
An additional $185,879 was spent for victim counseling, services and therapy, the report states.
In the report, Bishop Reilly emphasizes that "the source of funds for any settlement, therapeutic response or legal fees was the Bishop's discretionary funds. ... No donations to the Bishop's Fund, or parish contributions to the diocese known as the cathedraticum, or gifts to the Forward in Faith capital campaign were used for anything other than their designated purpose."
The bishop's discretionary funds come from a variety of nondesignated sources, including bequests, specific donations for the bishop's use, earnings on undesignated funds and/or operational gains from past years, the report says.
Mary T. Jean of Leominster, leader of Worcester Voice, an organization that works with victims, said the report shows the scope of the problem to be worse than she anticipated. She said those priests who have been removed from the ministry should be identified and required to register as sex offenders.
"Obviously, it illustrates that the situation is even worse than we had anticipated," she said. "We had originally disclosed 33 names. But I think that's true of other dioceses, that they're showing higher numbers.
"People are very concerned, especially with the sex registry. These people are living in the community. In the current climate, it's a very topical issue. Parents are fearful. We don't know who they are."
Mr. Delisle said he is not aware of any plan to make public the names of priests, either accused or removed from the ministry.
In a finding similar to that in a report released last month by District Attorney John J. Conte, the diocese showed that the instances of alleged abuse peaked between 1975 and 1979, and that most victims did not report them - either to the church or to civil authorities - for an average of 20 years.
The report also drew a distinction between pedophile abusers, or those who abused prepubescent children, and "ephebophile" abusers, who abused teen-age boys. Of the 45 priests against whom allegations of abuse were made, 80 percent would be considered ephebophiles, the report continued.
"By presenting this report to you, I hope to promote healing for those who have been abused while remaining cognizant of the rights of those who have been accused but face no process to defend themselves," the bishop wrote. "This applies, in particular, to those who died before any such allegations were brought to light.
"We will continue to do all we can to promote healing for those who bring to us substantive allegations of abuse, and put in place additional protections for the safety of children and young people in our care.
"We must also respect the civil rights due to every American citizen as well as the canonical rights of those who face allegations well past the statute of limitations. ..."
Mr. Conte's report showed that 86 priests, brothers and sisters of religious orders, and ordained ministers, and three lay persons, have been named as suspects by victims.
Of these, 37 suspects are living priests attached to the Diocese of Worcester, and one lay person, also connected to the Diocese of Worcester; 20 suspects are deceased priests attached to the Diocese of Worcester, and one lay person connected to the diocese is also deceased.
"The nature and scope (of the studies) were different," Mr. Delisle said. "The district attorney looked at child abuse as well as adult. Ours is just on minors. It's a narrower subset."
He said that the diocese will continue carrying out reforms put in place by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in responding to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
"For us, it's been the focus of the charter, young adults, where everyone's focus has been," Mr. Delsisle said. "It'll continue with the steps laid out over the last two years. Safe environment training for the children. That remains paramount, as he put in the report. There's still ongoing dialogue with the victims, ongoing therapeutic support for victims. We will be able to work with victims who come forward in the future."
Worcester Diocese releases abuse report
Eighty percent of the allegations "would be classified as ephebophile," something diocesan spokesman Ray Delisle said "from the perspective of this report is unrelated" to the sexual orientation of priests.
Reilly wrote that "we must understand this, as we continue vigorous screening of those interested in the priesthood, and to make improvements in training programs in seminaries, general employment screening, and determining the best policies for those removed from ministry."
A total of 112 alleged victims have made child sexual abuse allegations against 45 priests since the Worcester Diocese branched out of the Springfield Diocese in 1950, according to Reilly's report.
Leominster resident David Higgins, who for a decade has reviewed allegations against area priests as assistant chairman for the Diocesan Review Committee, said a statistical peak of abuse during the late 1970s "represents the change in society, as far as I'm concerned."
"I think they're perhaps trying to screen out gay priests," Higgins said of the church's response to the information. "They see that as a potential difficulty. I don't agree with that. If a priest is gay, and he's celibate, he's a good priest."
Reilly's report follows a report last month by Worcester County District Attorney John Conte that said 57 priests had been accused of sexual abuse during the same time period.
Conte's report included allegations of sexual abuse against adults as well as minors, while Reilly's report focused on the abuse of minors.
"You will see that our numbers vary somewhat from the district attorney's report, but every allegation we have ever received has been shared with his office," Reilly stated in his letter.
Both reports show most of the abuse happened during a peak period between 1975 and 1979, while most allegations did not arise until the early 1990s and then again in 2002, following the outbreak of the clergy abuse crisis in the Boston Archdiocese.
Forty-five men and nine women made allegations in 2002, according to Reilly's report.
Despite high-profile cases involving pedophiles -- like former Leominster priest Robert Kelley, who was twice convicted of raping young girls in the 1970s and 1980s -- most allegations involved teen victims.
"When you hear of a classic pedophile, you tend to hear of a lot more victims," Delisle said.
Higgins, who is the retired CEO of Community Healthlink Inc., a mental health center, said he believes "a vast societal change" involving "the hippie generation and women's lib" accounted for the rise of allegations in the 1970s.
"I think the consistency is the high number of teenagers and younger
victims, as opposed to older victims, and more males than females,"
Higgins said of the report.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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