Protesters Demonstrate outside Cathedral

By Kathleen Durand
Herald News
July 31, 2003

BOSTON — While Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley was being installed as head of the Boston archdiocese Wednesday, a group of about 50 demonstrators and protesters held signs and gave speeches outside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

They stood behind metal barriers in a designated area near the historic cathedral's front entrance.

Some of them held crosses labeled "Walls of Deceit and Shame." One cross was for the Fall River Diocese. It bore the names of about 21 priests who were investigated for alleged sexual abuse of children.

Terry McKiernan of Natick, an advocate for Survivors First and a founder of Voice of the Faithful, told the gathering that the late Rev. Jose Avila, also known as D'Avila, abused an estimated 100 children during a 44-year career as a priest in Taunton, Fall River, East Falmouth and New Bedford.

Despite the trail of devastation he left, McKiernan said Avila is unknown to the public at large. He said, however, that Avila is known to O'Malley and his former colleagues in the Fall River Diocese.

McKiernan said a survivor who came forward about the case is the son of hardworking farmers on Cape Cod. As a boy, he said the survivor looked up to Avila, until the day that Avila allegedly attacked him in the rectory.

"Life has been very difficult for my friend since then, and he feels he's carrying the 'guilt' of the abuse, though he knows it wasn't his fault," McKiernan said. He said the man is now in therapy, but the church is not paying for it.

McKiernan said when he visited the victim, he met other men who were propositioned by Avila as children.

"I heard stories of suicides, depression and broken homes, all because of this priest," he said.

He said Avila and the Rev. Gilbert Simoes, his assistant, worked at seven parishes from the early 1930s to the late 1980s, and both abused children.

Although his friend went to the district attorney in Barnstable to file a complaint against Avila, McKiernan said he learned that the statute of limitations prevented prosecution.

McKiernan said his friend was offered counseling by the Fall River Diocese, not by an independent counselor, and after he declined, the diocese dropped the matter.

"It is time now to release the diocesan files on every Fall River priest who abused children and vulnerable adults. It's time to bring justice and dignity to the Portuguese community and to everyone who has suffered because of these priests," McKiernan said. "We're told that O'Malley is a healer. Let him finish that job openly in Fall River, and then begin it in Boston."

Some of the protesters held signs that read "Criminals in robes," "Bishops are intrinsically evil," "O'Malley, oh really," and "Thanks for standing with the victims."

Rene Buchanan of Allston said she has been demonstrating outside the cathedral since 1979 to press for the ordination of female priests. She is a member of Massachusetts Womenchurch and the National Women's Ordination Conference.


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