Priest Abuse Victims Ask Area Faithful to Help Push for Talks

By Theresa Monsour
Pioneer Press [Minnesota]
Downloaded January 13, 2003

The Minnesota Chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (MNSNAP) distributed fliers and foil-covered chocolate coins outside several churches in the Twin Cities and St. Cloud on Sunday.

The fliers asked churchgoers to support MNSNAP’s efforts to meet with Archbishop Harry Flynn. The meeting is key because Flynn has played a high-profile role helping bishops develop a national policy regarding clergy who sexually abuse, said Michael Wegs, a spokesman for MNSNAP. The organization has tried to meet with Flynn and has been told he was too busy, Wegs said.

The coins were handed out because the organization is asking parishioners to drop candy in collection plates along with their Sunday donations until Flynn meets with MNSNAP. The candy is a reminder of the concern for children, Wegs said.

“By leafleting Catholic parishes today, MNSNAP sees itself as a message of hope for those who were sexually molested as children by priests,” Wegs said. “And as we raise the level of awareness and become visible, we hope that those suffering in silence will encourage others to step forward.”

Wegs, a Twin Cities resident, filed a civil lawsuit in Missouri last March accusing a former Florida bishop of sexually abusing him as a teenage seminary student in Hannibal more than 30 years ago.

“The archbishop is always willing to meet with victims, and he’s done so many times,” said Dennis McGrath, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “But he does so in a private, pastoral setting. Not in a large group in a media event.”

“I’m certain we can accommodate SNAP and, under the right circumstances, schedule a meeting,” McGrath said Sunday night. “He’s got nothing against SNAP. They’re a legitimate group. I think there’s been some kind of misunderstanding.”

When asked about SNAP’s campaign encouraging parishioners to toss candy in the collection plate, McGrath said: “They have a perfect right to do that. How can anybody object to members of the faithful stating their opinion?”


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