Clergy Abuse Victims: Cover-Ups a 'National Problem'

By Barbara Laker
Philadelphia Daily News
February 14, 2011

As daylight faded yesterday, they lined the sidewalk in front of the Cathedral Basilica of Ss. Peter and Paul, holding their childhood photos.

The snapshots were decades old and took them back to a dark place - a time when they say priests sexually abused them.

"It's time for us to stand up and make the hierarchy accountable and demand they stop lying and take care of the survivors," said David Lorenz, of Bowie, Md., who said that a priest who was his school guidance counselor molested him.

Lorenz was one of about 25 protesters outside the cathedral, three days after a grand-jury report concluded that leaders in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia covered up priest sex abuse, and that dozens of clerics accused of molestation continue to work around children in area parishes. Cardinal Justin Rigali has strongly denied that claim.

Lorenz said that he was 16 years old when guidance counselor Earl Bierman sodomized him in Covington, Kentucky. Now 52, Lorenz kept silent until 1992, after another victim accused Bierman of similar abuse.

Bierman, who may have sexually assaulted as many as 100 boys, was convicted of abusing six boys in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years behind bars. He died in prison in 2005.

When Lorenz and others recall their abuse, it's as if it happened last week.

"It doesn't leave you - it's something that I carry with me every day," said Matthias Conaty, who stood with his wife and two children near Lorenz.

Conaty, now 42, of Wilmington, Delaware, said that he was molested by the Rev. Paul Daleo for four years, from the age of 9 to 12.

"I was just a little boy," he said.

Daleo, he said, sometimes molested him while performing as a Christian clown at school and church events.

Conaty told his parents in 2002 and he filed suit against Daleo, a Capuchin Franciscan friar, in 2008. Daleo was removed from the ministry and assigned an office job in Union City, N.J. He subsequently left the order. An attempt to reach Daleo for comment last night was unsuccessful.

"I've had bulimia ever since I was abused," Conaty said. "It's something I have to fight every day. Not a day goes by that I'm not burdened about thinking about it."

Because of the abuse, most victims grow up to feel that they are not worthy, said Barbara Blaine, founder of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), which organized the demonstration yesterday.

Blaine called for the National Review Board, a panel of Catholics charged with overseeing bishops' handing of abuse cases, to investigate similar alleged cover-ups in other dioceses. "We believe this is a national problem," Blaine said.

It takes courage for victims to come forward, she said, and when nothing happens as a result, it's devastating. "It's as if we're not believed or it's just no big deal," she said. "It gives you a message you're not important.

"We feel the impact of the abuse every single day. It's a life-long sentence. But priests, they get away with it.

"If the opposite were true and the predators were punished, it would be a source of healing for us," she said.

"Instead, it's another insult, another betrayal."


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