Group to Aid Black Victims of Priest Abuse

By Lolly Bowean and Crystal Yednak
Chicago Tribune
February 12, 2006,1,497741.story?coll=

As a teenager, David Nolan endured years of sexual molestation and abuse by a Roman Catholic priest who oversaw a school and church in his South Side neighborhood, he said.

But for much of his life, Nolan was silent about the abuse because the African-American priest helped him get through high school, was generous to his family and was celebrated in the black community for his work with poor boys, Nolan said.

"I've always been ashamed about what happened and I couldn't tell anyone," he said.

On Saturday, Nolan and a dozen others who say they were abused gathered to take their first organized step toward healing. They are forming a support group for African-Americans who suffered such abuse, said Dwain Singleton, president of African-American Advocates for Victims of Clergy Abuse.

Most, like Nolan, said they were abused by Rev. Victor Stewart, who is now dead, during the 1970s and 1980s.

"You don't hear the full story about black priests that are pedophiles," Nolan said. "I got a Catholic high school education that my parents couldn't afford because of the church. But I had to sacrifice my innocence to get my education."

According to Phillip Aaron, an attorney for the victims, some of those abused by Stewart reached lawsuit settlements totaling $3 million with the archdiocese of Chicago in 2003. But Saturday, Aaron said the archdiocese did not believe their claims, never provided counseling and offered much smaller financial settlements than those given to white accusers.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said she could not comment on the specific allegations.

"I can't give specifics because I don't know of this case," Dianne Dunagan said. "If they made allegations, they were processed according to our procedures."

Also Saturday, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests pressed Cardinal Francis George to release the names of all priests accused of sex abuse.

Dunagan said the archdiocesan Web site offers access to a system where users can check whether credible allegations have been made against a priest. "We maintain that [the names] have all been released at one time or another," she said.

George also has sent a letter to priests asking that anyone who has engaged in such misconduct come forward, priests and church officials said.

SNAP pointed to a Florida woman, Linda Lee Burke, who went public Saturday with the names of three former Chicago priests she accused of committing abuse in the 1960s, but who have not been named publicly. In 2004, the archdiocese signed a $125,000 settlement agreement with her, she said.

Dunagan said the archdiocese does not comment on settlement agreements.


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