Memorial plaque for US clerical sex abuse victims
Charlie Bird, Washington Correspondent, reports that a plaque was unveiled in Mendham, New Jersey, where a local priest abused more than 20 children

By Charlie Bird
RTÉ News, Six One News
June 15, 2009 [click to view]

[Note from We transcribed this report from the RTÉ streaming video linked above. Stills from the video provide multiple views of the monument, which is not well represented on the web. See also our transcript of Charlie Bird's more extensive RTÉ Radio 1 report.]

Sharon Ní Bheoláin: The Catholic church in the United States has paid out billions of dollars in compensation to the survivors of child abuse. One town, Mendham in New Jersey, where a local priest abused over 20 children back in the early 80s. Our Washington correspondent, Charlie Bird, reports from Mendham, where the local people have built a memorial to the survivors.

Charlie Bird: This is the picturesque town of Mendham in New Jersey, about an hour from New York. In the early 80s the community of 5,000 people was rocked by one of the biggest abuse scandals to hit the Catholic church in the United States. It emerged that a local priest, Father James Hanley, had been abusing children in his care for years.

“It will be better [for] that person to have a millstone hung around his neck and thrown into the depth of the sea.”

Pat Serrano: That’s correct, and it’s true, I wish we had some millstones. I will say, we did have forget-me-nots here, the day of the dedication, and we want to show all victims that we will not forget them.

Bird: Pat Serrano’s son Mark was the first to break his silence on the abuse. In October 2003, another abuse victim, Jim Kelly, took his own life, and as a result of his death, some of the survivors and their families decided to erect a memorial in the form of a millstone.

Serrano: This millstone became the tribute, and he said, you know, Jesus’s words were, if you harm a child, you should have a millstone around your neck and be thrown into the sea. And this became a very important symbol for the survivors, with the pain that they suffered as young children.

Bird: Father Kenneth Lasch was the pastor of St. Joseph’s at the time.

Msgr. Kenneth Lasch: We put crucifixes in all our classrooms. In this country, every time you turn around there’s a tribute to people who die in an airplane, and I’m all in favor of it – people from 9/11, you know that has cause in this country. Why not victims of clergy abuse? Innocent victims, all of them. Why should we not have tribute to them? For their survival?

Bird: This was the first memorial in the United States dedicated to the survivors and to the victims of sexual abuse. There are now a number of others in places across America. Charlie Bird, RTÉ News, at St. Joseph’s church, Mendham, New Jersey.



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