Church Critics Belittle Audit
Report Says Diocese Following Rules to Protect Youths

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette
December 14, 2005

WORCESTE´┐Ż — David Clohessy, national director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said yesterday the audit in the Catholic Diocese of Worcester and those done across the country are public relations maneuvers to convince the public the bishops have reformed in the wake of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

"No one should be lulled into complacency by this ridiculous process. Bishops draw up the rules, decide who plays, hire the umpires and declare themselves winning. It's a total sham," he said.

Mr. Clohessy said the self-audits, one of which was done this year in Worcester, "are one more shrewd PR stunt by bishops to try and convince the public and the parishioners they've reformed when, in fact, they have not."

The Worcester Diocese announced late last week that the diocese for a third year was found to be compliant with provisions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the American bishops in 2002 in response to the clergy abuse scandal. The diocese was allowed to do a self-audit this year because the diocese was compliant for the previous two years.

Other victims of clergy abuse in the Worcester diocese reacted yesterday to the audit and said things were not as rosy as some might have said.

"The impression that I'm getting is that the bishop is still making statements that would make an uninformed reader think that he is sitting down and writing all of us poor victims a letter from the depths of his heart to right this terrible wrong," said Dave A. Lewcon of Uxbridge, who settled a lawsuit with the diocese that alleged he was sexually abused as a minor by the Rev. Thomas H. Teczar.

The diocese noted that Bishop Robert J. McManus last spring wrote to all "known victims."

"Obviously this is bogus, but we all know that," Mr. Lewcon said. He said he checked with victims who had received the letters and he was told "that it wasn't much more than a form letter," he said. Mr. Lewcon said he never received a letter from the bishop.

Mr. Lewcon questioned the auditing company, The Gavin Group of Boston, and exactly what it was auditing. The diocese doing its own evaluation "is like me giving myself my own annual job review. Why wouldn't I give myself a raise?" he said.

Chad Boisvert, who now lives in the Boston area, received services from the diocese after alleging abuse by the Rev. Jean-Paul Gagnon as an adult pre-seminarian. He said he never received a letter from the bishop.

Paul Guries of Auburn, who settled a lawsuit with the diocese alleging sexual abuse by the Rev. Gerard L. Branconnier, said he did not receive a letter from the bishop "and I am well-known to the diocese."

Mr. Guries, a former seminarian who studied for the priesthood for the Worcester Diocese, said he was invited to meet with the late Bishop Timothy H. Harrington at his residence during the 1990s. The bishop had a list of names of active priests in the diocese and Mr. Guries was asked if he knew of anything negative about them. The bishop closed by saying some of the priests probably would be promoted in coming weeks.

Bryan Smith of Hubbardston, an early Worcester SNAP leader, said he has received assistance through the Office for Healing and Prevention. "I feel that if the new bishop really wanted to reach out to survivors, he could have used a more personal letter to survivors, and also he should have left out his quotes of Scripture. I threw my letter away as soon as I saw Scripture quoted, as I felt like it was an insult. I don't believe in any of that hocus-pocus," he said.

He said that Frances Nugent, the victim service coordinator for the diocese, appears to be sincere, but he believes her "hands are tied" sometimes because she works for the diocese.

Mr. Smith never filed a lawsuit, but received some help from the diocese after alleging sexual abuse as a minor by the late Rev. Donald J. Rebokus at Holy Name High School.

The diocese has high praise for Mrs. Nugent and Sister Paula Kelleher, who co-directs the office with Mrs. Nugent. The annual audits are conducted of every diocese throughout the country.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.