Official Praises Archdiocese Efforts against Sex Abuse

By Eric Convey and Robin Washington
The Boston Herald
January 24, 2003

The head of an office set up by U.S. bishops to establish church policies to combat clergy sexual abuse said yesterday that elements of programs developed in Boston over the past year could serve as national models.
``I came up here to take a look at the massive effort that's been put forth by the archdiocese in terms of safe environment programs,'' Kathleen McChesney said. The safe environment programs involve teaching 400,000 children and adults how to prevent abuse.

``It's an ambitious effort and they're succeeding. I think it's really important for the parishioners to know (that),'' the former high-ranking FBI official said.

McChesney said she had a ``very productive'' meeting with Bishop Richard G. Lennon, the apostolic administrator overseeing the archdiocese pending appointment of a long-term successor to Bernard Cardinal Law. They discussed ways to implement prevention policies, she said.

McChesney's office is also measuring dioceses to determine whether they're complying with existing national guidelines, but she was not evaluating Boston, she said.

Donna M. Morrissey, a spokeswoman for the archdiocese, said officials in Boston invited McChesney to offer any help ``to make sure this doesn't happen again.''

Also yesterday, Carmen Durso, a lawyer representing numerous alleged sexual abuse victims, wrote to the archdiocese's Office of Healing decrying its ``outrageous interference in the attorney-client relationship.''

Durso's missive to Barbara Thorp, head of the office, came in answer to a Jan. 19 letter by Thorp to victims in which she warned them that ``protracted legal action further contributes to suffering and interferes with the healing process.''

``It appears that you are using your office to urge claimants to `disarm' and engage in a mediation process,'' Durso wrote. ``You do the mental health profession a great disservice when you use your position to propagandize injured people, and try to make them feel guilty for asserting their legal rights.''

Thorp's letter followed the revelation that archdiocese lawyers had begun deposing therapists of sexual abuse victims. Though the practice is allowable by law, a church spokeswoman said it would only be used as a last resort on cases headed to trial.


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