The Pope and his addressing the issue of clergy and sexual abuse by priests.
When Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass on Boston Common on Oct. 1,1979, Robert Costello was there. He was 18, president of the CatholicYouth Organization at St. Theresa of Avila parish in West Roxbury, anda freshman at Boston College. Praying in the rain with 400,000believers, he watched as his friend, who was dying of cancer, tookCommunion from the pope's hand.
Now,almost 29 years later, Costello is anticipating another pope's visit.Only this time, he is going to protest, not pray. A victim of sexualabuse by a priest who was supposed to teach his Boy Scout troop toswim, Costello will travel from Boston to New York City Friday to readaloud the names of fellow victims, while Benedict XVI addresses theUnited Nations.
"I don't owe him the courtesy of kissing hisring, because they certainly didn't do me the courtesy of stopping thisabuse when it happened," said Costello, a 46-year-old Norwood residentwho, in 1989, came to terms with the abuse he said he suffered betweenthe ages of 10 and 14.
For many victims of clergy sexual abuse,Benedict's visit to New York and Washington revives the rage,powerlessness, and despair of having had their faith broken and theirabuse unacknowledged for decades. Many say the pope has not done enoughto prevent abuse and that it is still occurring. They see Benedict'sdecision to bypass Boston, the epicenter of the crisis, as willfuldisregard for the problem.
"It's just the sort of thing where Ihear about it, and I turn away in disgust," said Peter Pollard, 56, whosaid he was molested in the 1960s by a priest in Marblehead and whoworks for an organization in Amherst dedicated to stopping abuse.
"It'snot something I have interest in or want to have interest in. I feelpretty dismissive and disdainful of the pope and his office and hispast behavior."
Some Catholics, however, hope that Benedict'svisit will inaugurate an era of openness between victims and theVatican. Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the pope's US ambassador, has toldUSA Today that Benedict plans to address the abuse crisis several times.
Sambihas also told the National Catholic Reporter that a meeting withvictims is "within the field of possibility, but I cannot confirmanything."
The main national organization representing victims,the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, has heard nothingfrom the Vatican or its representatives, despite requesting a meetingwith the pope, according to its national director, David Clohessy.
"Hehas a huge opportunity here, and if he misses that opportunity, he willnot get it back," said Gary M. Bergeron, a Salem, N.H., resident whosebook, "Don't Call Me A Victim," chronicles the alleged sexual abuse bypriests of his father, his brother, and himself. Bergeron, his father,and another victim sought unsuccessfully to tell their stories to JohnPaul II at the Vatican in 2003.
"It's an opportunity for him to walk through that door that wepushed against and pushed against and pushed against for decades,"Bergeron, 45, said in his office, where a sign on the bookshelf reads,"Adversity Introduces A Man to Himself." "It's open. Just walk throughit."
SusanRenehan, 59, a single mother in Southbridge, grew up a devout Catholicin suburban New Jersey. As a girl of 8, she willingly gave up chocolatefor Lent, and read books about priests serving in leper colonies andpriests with stigmata.
"I had this very deep love of the Church and the pope," she said. "It was very deep in the fabric."
Then,she said, a priest repeatedly molested her when she was in the seventhand eighth grade, and she was kicked out of Catholic school formisbehaving. She has never gone back to church, she said.
Now, thinking about the pope in New York makes her angry.
"Ifanything, I'd go down and protest," Renehan said. "But I'll probablyjust tune it out . . . Until the pope steps up to the plate and startsbeing responsible for the child abuse and rape, then he has nocredibility. And that the Catholics aren't demanding that he be heldaccountable is just as criminal as his ignoring the issue."
Costellostruggled for years with depression, alcohol abuse, and suicidalfeelings. He credits therapy for helping him recover. In 1995, whenJohn Paul II visited Washington, Costello wrote a letter to the pope,telling him the story of his abuse and inviting him to his garden totalk.
But he never heard back, he said.
Costello said that reading aloud the names of victims feels like a more fitting response to this pope's visit.
"I just didn't want them to be forgotten amidst all the pomp and circumstance," he said.
Thedisillusionment is painful for many. Pollard, who said his molestationby the Rev. George Rosenkranz led him to become an advocate for abusedchildren, recalled the awe he felt as a child when the pope came to theUnited States.
"The pope felt like God's representative onearth," Pollard said. "It was very exciting and very meaningful andvery moving. This just feels like they have trivialized the Church andthe pope, and that feels like a big loss.
"It's done, for me. It's not something that I am experiencing today as a new loss. That happened a long time ago."
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