Victims" Group Asks OKC Archbishop to Reach out

Houston Chronicle
August 12 2010

The leader of a group of sex abuse victims on Thursday called on the Oklahoma City archbishop to use his influence to help locate other potential victims of Catholic priests in Oklahoma.

Standing at the entrance to the archdiocese's headquarters, David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Archbishop Eusebius Beltran "has a moral duty to reach out to those individuals and help them heal."

"The very least bishops can do is to essentially help warn unsuspecting families about potentially dangerous child molesters and help victims get the validation and the healing that comes when the truth is revealed and a predator is exposed," Clohessy said. "This is a simple, inexpensive, proven way that bishops can go beyond the bare minimum and let people know who these child molesters are so that people can simply protect their kids from them."

A woman at the entrance to the archdiocese's headquarters told reporters that Beltran wasn't available for comment and asked them to leave.

In October, six men who say a priest molested them reached a $4.6 million settlement in Texas with the priest's religious order, the Discalced Carmelite Friars of the Oklahoma Province of St. Therese and the Catholic Diocese of Dallas. Citing the Official Catholic Directory, Clohessy said that priest, Thomas Behnke, also worked for at least 10 years in Oklahoma.

Clohessy said that from 1954 to 1955 and again from 1969 to 1974, Behnke lived and worked at a parish in south Oklahoma City, and that Behnke worked at parish in Hartshorne in southeastern Oklahoma from 1966 to 1968. Behnke died in 2008.

Beltran should use the archdiocese's website and newspaper, parish bulletins and local pulpits to publicize that Behnke once worked in Oklahoma, Clohessy said. Among the items on the website should be a listing of the names and whereabouts of all priests who have worked in the archdiocese and have been proven, have admitted to or have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children, Clohessy said.

Clohessy said he was not aware of any specific victims of Behnke in Oklahoma, but that "we firmly believe it's likely he molested children here. ... As best we can tell, there has been no real attention paid to Father Behnke and his time in Oklahoma."

A man who answered the phone at the number for the Oklahoma Carmelite religious order said no one was available to speak about Clohessy's request.

In June, Pope Benedict XVI begged forgiveness from victims of the church's clerical abuse scandal and promised to "do everything possible" to protect children.


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