San Bernardino Diocese Publishes Victim's Story of Abuse by Priest

The Associated Press, carried in New York Times
January 26, 2003

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Jan. 25 — The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino responded to the church sexual abuse scandal with an unusual step this week, publishing a victim's account and producing a video to raise awareness of abuse.

The newsletter and video will be distributed from the pulpit throughout the diocese's 110 churches this weekend.

The newsletter includes the words of a 40-year-old San Bernardino County man who described how a priest from another Southern California diocese molested him as a child. The videotape encourages victims to call a church hot line for help.

"Victims have said, `Don't tell us that you're praying for us if you're not prepared to act,' " said Deacon Mike Jelley, who is coordinating the effort. "We're trying to put our words into actions."

In California, about 400 lawsuits are expected to be filed this year under a law that extends the statue of limitations for sexual abuse suits.

Many dioceses around the country have started awareness campaigns about sexual abuse. Some, including San Bernardino, will sponsor discussion groups about abuse and the church during Lent.

Deacon Jelley said he knew of no other diocese that had published the firsthand experience of a victim. He said he had received requests from other dioceses for copies of the video.

Cases involving six San Bernardino priests are pending against the diocese, its spokesman, Howard Lincoln, said. Five priests have been suspended, he said, and police reports had been filed on 32 priests, including some who are dead.

Deacon Jelley said the church's effort went beyond the abuse by priests.

"Unless we can help begin a dialogue, people in families where this happens will be unable to speak about it," Deacon Jelley said. "We're hoping that people who have this experience in their families will be able to talk about it."


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