Bishop Says He Was Abused by Priest
By Andrew Stern
The Sunday Times [United States]
January 11, 2006
A ROMAN Catholic bishop from Detroit said this morning he was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager, becoming the highest-ranking clergyman and the first prelate to declare himself a victim in the scandal tainting the church.
"I speak out of my own experience of being exploited as a teenager through inappropriate touching by a priest," Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton said in testimony for the Ohio state legislature.
Bishop Gumbleton said he supports efforts in Ohio and several other states to follow California's lead in suspending the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits that allege abuse by clergy and subsequent cover-ups by the church hierarchy.
The scandal first erupted in 2003 in Boston and has since involved virtually every US diocese.
Bishop Gumbleton, 75, said in published interviews that he was in a religious high school in Detroit when the unnamed priest took him to a cottage where they wrestled and he was fondled.
The priest has been dead 10 years and Bishop Gumbleton said he had suffered no lasting effects from the encounter.
A bishop in Detroit since 1968, Bishop Gumbleton is known for his liberal views and his prayer vigils and fasts especially in support of peace movements and disarmament. He was ordained in 1956 and has been the pastor at St Leo's church in Detroit since 1983.
In his remarks, Bishop Gumbleton said he was speaking out as an individual to apologise to victims and their families and because the only way to assure perpetrators were exposed was by providing victims their day in court.
Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida said he was saddened by the report of the bishop being an abuse victim, saying it was the first the diocese had heard of his claims.
"Bishop Gumbleton's experience is indeed regrettable and, no doubt, it frames his personal opinion on this matter," said archdiocese spokesman Monsignor Ricardo Bass.
He added the archdiocese supported a statute of limitations as "protecting the rights of everyone, especially after a long passage of time."
California is the lone state to have approved a one-year window suspending its statute of limitations on abuse lawsuits, and hundreds of civil cases were filed in 2003, many of which are pending but dozens of which were settled, said David Clohessy of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Several other states including Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania were considering suspending the 2- to 5-year statute of limitations so as to allow lawsuits about events from long ago.
"It is just incredibly inspiring to see someone of (Bishop Gumbleton's) stature and position showing such courage. We know dozens of priests were abused by priests as kids, and we suspect there were bishops as well," Mr Clohessy said.
"We're grateful that he recognises that reforming laws, while bitter-tasting medicine, is ultimately very effective medicine for cleansing the church and protecting kids."
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