New Bishop Addresses Concerns of SNAP Protesters

By Erin Duffy
Times of Trenton
March 8, 2011

LAWRENCE -- As the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests staged a protest outside the Diocese of Trenton headquarters in Lawrence yesterday seeking more detailed information about priest sexual misconduct, Bishop David M. O'Connell emerged to address their concerns personally.

"It was nice of him to come out," said Bob Hoatson, co-founder of Road to Recovery, which joined SNAP at the small demonstration. "Most bishops don't."

SNAP President Barbara Blaine recited a checklist of demands and asked O'Connell to post the names of all Diocese of Trenton clergy and employees "credibly accused" of sex abuse on the Diocese website.

In a 2004 report, the Diocese acknowledged credible allegations against 25 priests dating back to the 1950s. Blaine said 16 of those priests have been identified, but another nine have never been named.

"We want the identities of those other nine to be made public," said Blaine. She passed out information on Diocese of Trenton priest Michael M. Garry, who Blaine said molested a pre-teen girl in St. Mark's parish in Sea Girt from roughly 1960 to 1963, though his name had never been publicly tied to the priest sex abuse scandal until yesterday. Garry died in 1988.

Speaking calmly and cordially, O'Connell told the group he'd consider all their requests, but he said yesterday was the first time he was hearing about some of the alleged abuse cases.

"As horrible as all this is, and I feel terrible about, I can't do anything to change the past," O'Connell said. "I just started and what I'm going to try and do is the right thing."

According to SNAP, bishops in 24 other diocese across the country, including Philadelphia, have posted information about accused priests online. That information often includes names of the accused, as well as their priestly status and current whereabouts.

"I know bishops have a tendency not to put the names up, but the wake is terrible for the victims and their families left behind," said Blaine, herself a victim of abuse.

During an interview inside his office, O'Connell outlined the steps the Diocese of Trenton has taken since adopting a new policy on handling allegations of sex abuse in 2003, one that involves forwarding all allegations of abuse to the county prosecutor.

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