A national support group for people sexually abused by priests wantsVermont's Catholic Church to publicize the names and whereabouts of allpersonnel accused of molesting parishioners.
"If a chemicalcompany had dozens of toxic dumpsites scattered across Vermont, wethink their moral obligation would be to say where they are and to stayaway," David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of thoseAbused by Priests (SNAP), said Wednesday.
Clohessy, meeting withVermont survivors and supporters outside the statewide Roman CatholicDiocese's headquarters in Burlington, also blasted the church for"harsh and misleading" comments regarding priest misconduct.
Clohessypointed to the diocese's reply to a letter in the July 27 VermontCatholic Tribune in which a former police sergeant and active Catholicwrote that "unless the church un-circles the wagons, comes clean, andthen moves forward with the help of the Holy Spirit," it never will"deal with the problem in earnest."
In response, an editor'snote said, "Your letter reflects the opinion of those unaware of thevarious child abuse educational programs mandated for clergy and laity(including all volunteers working with children)," noting the diocese"over the past year alone, has trained 1,400 clergy, religious, layteachers and volunteers in accordance with the specifics defined by theU.S. Bishops' 2002 'Charter for the Protection of Children and YoungPeople.' "
What the editor's note didn't say was that thediocese is one of only two in the nation yet to fully comply with suchpolicy, even though it has received repeated warnings over the pastfive years from a private auditing firm hired by the U.S. Conference ofCatholic Bishops.
"The diocese is hyping the training programsit has been found negligent in pursuing," Clohessy said. "They say inessence 'We're training the next generation,' but they're ignoring theproblem they've helped to create and keep in our midst even now."
VermontCatholic Bishop Salvatore Matano wasn't in his office Wednesday butissued a written statement saying the diocese "deeply regrets anyinstance of child sexual abuse and apologizes to those victims ofsexual abuse by clergy." But the leader of the state's largestreligious denomination didn't agree on publicizing names.
"It iswell known that these sad episodes of clerical misconduct have placedthe Church in the midst of legal proceedings intended to respect therights of both plaintiffs and defendants," the bishop wrote.
"Withthis in mind, it is not a simple task to list persons as guilty of thealleged misconduct whose cases are either still under review by theOffice of the Attorney General or before the court in cases of civillitigation awaiting trial or where there has been no admission of guiltor corroborated and substantiated evidence."
The Vermont diocesehas spent more than $1.5 million to settle at least six priestmisconduct cases out of court since news of a national sex abusescandal hit the Catholic Church five years ago. Even so, it still faces25 more civil misconduct lawsuits against eight of its retired ordeceased priests.
The SNAP group, noting that 15 other dioceseshad publicized information about accused priests, called on Vermont'sCatholic Church to "permanently post on the diocesan Web site the namesand whereabouts of all proven, admitted and credibly accused Vermontpriests, nuns, seminarians, brothers and lay employees."
Clohessysaid the Archdiocese of Baltimore was the first to publicly disclosesuch information, and the statewide Diocese of Portland, Maine, was themost recent.
"This move is the quickest, cheapest and mosteffective way any bishop can prevent future sex crimes by clergy," hesaid. "We think this is a bare minimum step every bishop should take."
Delaware'sbishop released the names of priests charged with child sexual abuselast fall after one suspended clergyman was arrested for molestinganother boy.
"By disclosing the names and locations of thoseliving priests," Bishop Michael Saltarelli said in a letter to DelawareCatholics, "we perhaps in some way may help prevent or deter anyfurther incidents."
Clohessy also asked Vermont's bishop to"personally visit every parish the accused clerics worked at" ratherthan continue to send out written statements.
"That's a passivePR approach — that's not what Jesus would do," the support group leadersaid. "We believe Jesus was very clear that you go out into the darkand cold and find the lost and wounded sheep."
Clohessy addedthat church officials should "strongly prod anyone who witnessed,experienced or suspects abuse" to call police, explaining "many bishopssay, 'call us,' but the sexual abuse of a child is a crime and shouldbe investigated by criminal authorities."
In response, Matanosaid he already had visited several parishes, was "cooperating fully"with law enforcement and was open to speaking with "victims of abusewhom I continue to pray for each day."
Wednesday wasn't thefirst time the national group spoke out against the Vermont diocese. Ayear ago, it blasted Matano after he placed local parishes incharitable trusts with the explanation "in such litigious times, itwould be a gross act of mismanagement if I did not do everythingpossible to protect our parishes and the interests of the faithful fromunbridled, unjust and terribly unreasonable assault."
Shortlyafter, the diocese issued a statement saying it "sincerely regretted"any interpretation that the bishop's statement was "one ofinsensitivity to victims." But Clohessy said Wednesday that "commentslike that can do nothing but discourage already deeply wounded victimsinto staying trapped into silence and self-blame."
SNAP reports8,000 members nationally. Clohessy, who made his comments whilevacationing in Vermont, also met with three Vermont sex-abuse survivorsincluding Michael Gay, a South Burlington man who last year received arecord $965,000 settlement from the diocese.
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