Group Asks Diocese to Denounce Suit

By Brad A. Greenberg
San Bernardino Sun
March 16, 2005

A national support group for people abused by priests criticized Bishop Gerald R. Barnes on Tuesday for his handling of sexual-abuse claims against priests in the Diocese of San Bernardino.

The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests asked Barnes to punish The Rev. Michael Bucaro, who in January filed a slander suit against a 25-year-old man who claims Bucaro molested him as a boy.

"We urge you to publicly denounce Bucaro's vicious and un-Christian legal hard ball tactics and discipline him,' the group, commonly known as SNAP, wrote in a letter signed by its San Diego and western regional directors.

"We also implore you to go to every parish where he was assigned and apologize for the harmful impact of your inaction and silence confronting Bucaro's inexcusable behavior.' The diocese's response was brief.

"Our only comment regarding SNAP correspondence is that our diocese remains absolutely committed to doing everything we can to provide a safe environment for all parishioners, most especially children, and to promote healing for victims of sexual abuse and their families,' said spokesman The Rev. Howard Lincoln. "In the end, it is our hope that justice and fairness will prevail.' Lincoln would not say if Bucaro will be punished.

The slander suit stems from a civil suit Matthew Bleecker filed against Bucaro in October. Bleecker claims Bucaro molested him between the ages of 5 and 11. The suit also targets the diocese, where Bucaro remains in good standing.

Bucaro voluntarily resigned as chaplain of California Institution for Men in Chino because he was worried about his safety. He does not work with parishioners, Lincoln said.

Bucaro could not be reached for comment.

His attorney, David Hershorin, said Bucaro has unfairly suffered from the stigma of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Almost 5,000 priests have been accused of abusing more than 10,000 children since 1950.

"Unfortunately, there are innocent priests with unblemished records who are being swept up in that. Father Bucaro is one of those,' Hershorin said.

"Father Bucaro believes that every victim of abuse should come forward, and is by no means attempting to intimidate anyone from coming forward. He is only trying to protect his reputation,' he said.

Anthony De Marco, Bleecker's attorney, did not return calls for comment.

Bleecker, who has a long criminal history, is serving two years at Wasco State Prison for burglary and vehicle theft, according to the Department of Corrections.

Mary Grant, western regional director of SNAP, said abuse victims commonly live troubled lives.

She said the slander suit will intimidate victims from reporting abuse.

"We're not denying the possibility of a false accusation. We don't think a priest should be prevented from mounting a legal defense,' Grant said. "Father Bucaro can defend himself without suing the victim.'


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