Members of Group for Priest Abuse Survivors Air Concerns to Fall River Diocese

By Marc Munroe Dion
Herald News
September 28, 2012

John Kearns, left, from the press office of the Fall River Diocese, confronts Peter Pollard and David O'Regan of SNAP during their press conference in front of the Chancery Office on Underwood Street.

Two members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Peter Pollard and David O’Regan, came to the city Friday to stand outside the bishop’s residence and talk to Diocesan Spokesman John Kearns about what the two originally said was a form sent home with students in diocesan Catholic schools relieving the diocese from responsibility if students are abused.

Kearns denied the allegation, saying the form, designed without the knowledge of the diocese, was sent home by Our Lady of Victory in Centerville and pertained only to a Faith Formation Program held by the church for people of all ages.

“It was not a universal form,” Kearns said. “We didn’t know they were using it.”

Kearns said the form is no longer in use.

“The Faith Formation Program involves a gathering three or four times a year,” Kearns said. “There’s a meal and then they break up into discussion groups.

“The form was about two paragraphs long and said that parents recognized that they are responsible for their children and did not hold the diocese responsible.”

Kearns said the form was apparently designed in case children wandered away from their parents and were injured.

O’Regan said some reports he’d read indicated the form was distributed throughout the diocese.

“That was reported incorrectly,” Kearns said. “No such waiver was ever given to students in the diocese. The parish was told to stop using it.”

O’Regan and Pollard did not dispute Kearns’ explanation.

“I wish you had called me,” Kearns said to the two men.

Neither Kearns nor Pollard and O’Regan could provide a copy of the form.

O’Regan and Pollard also questioned the church’s commitment to finding victims and obtaining justice for them in the recently revealed abuse allegations against deceased priest the Rev. James Nickel and the still-living the Rev. Joseph F. Byrne.

O’Regan asked Kearns where Nickel had served in the Fall River Diocese.

“We want people to come forward,” Kearns said of Nickel, Byrne and any other diocesan employees suspected of abuse.

Kearns said Byrne, currently under investigation by the civil authorities, was in retirement but had “helped out” at a parish in Falmouth until the allegations surfaced.

“He was removed,” Kearns said.

“When anyone has come forward with an allegation, we have removed the person and we have publicized it,” Kearns said.

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