Another Shameful Revelation

Toledo Blade (Ohio)
March 15, 2004

THE wounds of those who endured sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic clergy are deep and made worse by a lingering distrust of the church hierarchy to aggressively address the suffering of congregants. It does not help, for example, when a Catholic diocese such as Toledo still appears reluctant to part with the full truth about past shames while simultaneously manifesting an unwillingness to openly discuss acceptable catharses.

Another allegation of sexual abuse by a Jesuit visiting the diocese in 1980 has surfaced. At the time the accuser was a 16-year-old altar boy at St. Joseph in Sylvania who apparently informed two other parish priests about the alleged abuse to no avail. The young man eventually moved to Wisconsin and, in 1993, sought help from church officials there in dealing with the alleged sexual crimes of the Rev. John Gallen.

Unlike the response in Toledo, the Milwaukee archdiocese offered immediate psychological counseling to the man, who is now married and has a daughter. The archdiocese also reportedly notified the Toledo diocese and the head of the Jesuits' province in New York, where Father Gallen was living, about the allegations against him. Documents from the Archdiocese of New York show law enforcement officials were also informed about the accusations but the statute of limitations for levying criminal charges had expired.

The Toledo diocese maintains it didn't know anything about the case until the alleged victim contacted diocesan officials in 2002. Kevin says diocesan officials "danced around" taking responsibility for a clergyman who was not a Toledo priest but agreed to start paying for Kevin's counseling nonetheless.

As for the accused Jesuit, a renowned liturgical scholar and author who was publishing articles as recently as last June in a national Catholic magazine, he sent a couple letters to Kevin apologizing for his actions. Six months after the priest was informed that Kevin had retained a lawyer in 1994, the New York Jesuits paid the former altar boy a $50,000 confidential settlement.

Valid or not, Father Gallen's case reinforces the perception that church leaders like those in Toledo would still rather try to avoid a scandal that won't go away than confront its implications and resolutions directly.

Victims' advocates are especially perturbed by the apparent hesitancy of Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair to meet with them.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests says it has traded 14 letters with the bishop since November and hasn't achieved a face-to-face meeting yet. The diocese maintains the bishop wants to meet with group leaders once conditions for the session are agreed upon.

But rather than sweat the details, Bishop Blair should exhibit unconditional compassion with the victim's group by embracing them without stipulation - as a shepherd would the needy in his fold. And he should do so soon.


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