Support Group Reaches out to Clergy Abuse Victims

By Dana Clark Felty
Savannah Morning News
August 17, 2007

Savannah (GA) — A national support group for victims of clergy sex abuse is launching a local chapter with the help of a native Savannahian.

Organizers for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests announced plans to form the first local chapter of the national self-help group "focused on healing for anyone molested by clergy of any denomination."

Southeast coordinator Ann Brentwood will conduct monthly meetings for the local chapter until a leader comes forward, she said. Brentwood is based in Maryville, Tenn.

Brentwood said the local group was spearheaded largely through the efforts of Allan C. Ranta II, a native Savannah man who says he was sexually abused as a child by a former St. James parish priest.

Ranta, 38, now lives in Atlanta.

"I was abused," he said. "My main intention here in coming forward with my name is to do whatever I can to protect the children currently out there and hopefully help someone who is hurting, who may have been abused."

Ranta said he has filed formal charges against a former Savannah priest but declined to say where the charges were filed. He referred questions regarding the case to his attorney, Blake Beckham in Dallas, who did not return a telephone call by press time.

About 15 other area residents have expressed interest in the newly formed group, Brentwood said.

Unlike Ranta, "most of the people in Savannah have not come publicly forward, and I don't know whether they will ever want to do that," Brentwood said.

"We don't try to push anyone to do anything. We support victims whatever they decide. If they want to remain unknown, we honor that. If they want to speak, we assist them."

The group issued a letter dated Aug. 11 to Bishop J. Kevin Boland, who presides over the Diocese of Savannah, asking the diocese to disclose the names of "proven, admitted and credibly accused" church employees and their whereabouts, as well as a list of parishes, hospitals or schools where they have been assigned.

The group requests that the information be published in parish bulletins, in local print and electronic media, and on the diocesan Web site. The group also wants Catholic officials to personally visit each parish where "offending clerics have worked and prod victims to come forward."

In an e-mail response, diocesan spokeswoman Barbara King deferred to the Web site of the diocese, which documents church policy for handling reports of sexual abuse.

"The Diocese of Savannah follows a policy of openness and transparency in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the U.S. Bishops in Dallas, Texas, in 2002," King said.

In recent years, at least one former priest in the Diocese of Savannah has been convicted of sexual abuse.

The Rev. Wayland Brown was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003 for sexually abusing two brothers while attending a seminary in Washington, D.C. The brothers were 12 and 13 years old when the abuse began in 1974 at their home in Gaithersburg, Md., court records show.

Brown served as a priest in the Savannah diocese until church officials removed him from active ministry in 1988. He continued to reside in Savannah, working as a bookkeeper until his arrest in 2002.


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