Victim Fights Abuse by Church

By Alan Gustafson
Statesman Journal [Oregon]
January 8, 2007

Molested during childhood by a Catholic priest in New Jersey, Bill Crane now is an outspoken advocate for Oregon victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Crane, 40, leads the Oregon chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, the nation's largest support group for clergy-molestation victims.

Bill Crane
Photo by Thomas Patterson Statesman Journal

Bill Crane

Age: 40
Residence: Sandy
Family: wife, Jane; two children
Occupation: horticulturist
Activist role: head of the Oregon chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

Crane recently spoke with the Statesman Journal about a $75 million plan for the Archdiocese of Portland to pay off more than 150 priest sex-abuse claimants and get out of bankruptcy. He also talked about his personal struggles with emotional pain caused by childhood sexual abuse.

Question: You have said that coping with sexual abuse is a lifelong process. How do you cope?

Answer: I'm very thankful to have my family. I'm very thankful that I'm not addicted to drugs and alcohol. I'm into cycling, and that has really helped me cope by regulating the pain. I ride 300 miles a week on average year-round. That's been very effective for me, just taking the edge off and allowing me to vent my anger and frustration. It's also very healing to be an advocate for victims, just to speak out. It's rewarding to have our voices heard.

Q: A few years ago, you led a successful effort to build a New Jersey monument to victims of sexual abuse by priests. Would you like to see a similar monument established in Oregon?

A: Yes, absolutely. I think that would bring more healing to victims and the church than anything else.

Q: What location would be fitting for such a monument?

A: Probably right there at the Portland Archdiocese. That's where church leadership walks in and out every day. They think that a memorial would be too painful to look at every day. Well, victims have to live with that pain every single day. It would say a lot if a memorial was put in place. Just knowing that we're not forgotten and people are praying for us. That would be a step in the right direction.

Q: The Rev. James Hanley, a New Jersey priest who molested you and your twin brother in the late '70s and early '80s, admitted in recent years that he was a serial sex abuser of children. What became of him?

A: He was defrocked. He's now in jail. (Hanley recently was charged in Hudson County, N.J., with making threats and possession of a weapon after the ex-priest swung a baseball bat at hotel workers during a dispute).

Q: You grew up as an altar boy. Are you still a Catholic?

A: No. The truth has set me free. I'm very thankful to no longer be indoctrinated, programmed in the way that I think. I'm able to think for myself and to realize that what took place was very horrific and very wrong.

Q: Do you hate the church because of the priest sexual-abuse scandal?

A: With a righteous hatred, yes. In the same way that God hates sin. This was a subculture of abusing young boys that was accepted.

Q: Why did you decide to move across the country in 1992 and settle in Oregon?

A: I wanted to go as far away from New Jersey as I possibly could, thinking that would be healing for me. I honestly thought I could escape it by going 3,000 miles.

Q: Did moving provide the escape you wanted?

A: For a while. Until things got busy here. I just couldn't believe what was being exposed here in the mid- and late-90s about abusive priests. It brought back a lot of stuff.

Q: Why have you been so critical of the way church leadership reacted to the scandal?

A: Their number one goal is to protect the church. It's not to protect children. I think that's been made clear, and it's very sad. There's no lifelong commitment, no extension of charity and compassion to the victims.

Q: Many priests espouse charity and compassion. Are you being unfair to them?

A: I'm talking about the leadership. Look at the magnitude of the sexual abuse that occurred and was covered up. There's not one diocese in the nation that didn't have a problem. Not one. Just the numbers, the conspiracy of silence, speaks for itself.

Q: The proposed bankruptcy settlement involving the Portland Archdiocese has been described by some people as a hopeful new chapter. Why don't you see it that way?

A: Because the big picture for them is, how are we going to get through this? How are things going to get back to normal? I wish I could get back to normal. But the abuse that happened is so deeply rooted, it's something that will never be eradicated in my lifetime. A lot of the victims here locally and nationally are still in pretty rough shape.

Q: Some people might say that the victims should accept the settlement money and move forward with their lives. How would you respond?

A: It's not just a matter of writing a check and all their problems go away. Would you knowingly or unknowingly put your child in harm's way just to collect a check? We all know the answer to that. It's no.

Q: You say the church pitted parishioners against victims during the bankruptcy process. How so?

A: All of a sudden parishioners were worried about the upsetting possibility of their churches being sold. Remember when that took place? That was just another legal tactic against victims. In effect, victims became the enemy of the church. I got e-mails and phone calls from local parishioners saying, 'This is bad enough what happened to you kids as children, but this is a far greater sin now. You guys are taking away our church.'

Q: Catholic schools and churches in Oregon apparently won't have to be sold to fund payments to victims. Yet you remain frustrated about the proposed deal. Why?

A: Go back two years ago. The church had been bluffing for quite some time all across the nation that somebody was going to go into bankruptcy. The Portland Archdiocese became the first. So we were saying, 'This is great, now they're going to have to open up their books. Now we're going to see some transparency about how they conducted their business.'

Q: In what way did the process fail to deliver?

A: It was like, 'Hey, how can we get the church out of bankruptcy, get the victims some compensation and everything's back to business as normal.' Now, some victims and advocates are thinking, 'Where's the discovery process? Where's the legal process for those wanting to go to trial? Where is the transparency taking place with the judges? How many funds really are available?' There are a lot of unknowns.

Q: You predict that the church will emerge unscathed from bankruptcy. How so?

A: Insurance companies are paying about 70 percent of the claims. So you look at the church really landing on its feet unscathed. It's just unfathomable to think about what the church priests did to children. I don't know any other organization in the world that could do that and successfully still function as an organization.

Q: As an advocate for victims, what do you hope to accomplish in the future?

A: The Catholic Church is a safer place because of what brave individuals nationwide did in coming forward and exposing the horrors of what had taken place. We're still working on exposing truth. We're on our own, advocating for ourselves. or (503) 399-6709


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