Seeking Help for Victims

By Rita Ciolli
February 12, 2003

Saying the Suffolk County grand jury report has demonstrated an "emergency" need to provide counseling for victims of sex abuse on Long Island, a national victims' support organization yesterday called upon Bishop William Murphy to use the resources of the diocese to help launch a support group here.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, wants the diocese to place notices supporting SNAP in The Long Island Catholic - its weekly newspaper - in parish bulletins and to buy ad space in local newspapers. SNAP offers free counseling online, by telephone and through private group sessions.

"With so many victims having been deceived on Long Island, there are probably many more who have never come forward," said David Cerulli, co-director of SNAP's New York chapter. He said he sent the Long Island Catholic a SNAP counseling ad and a check a month ago. It has yet to run, Cerulli said, and he cannot find out why.

He said that church-sponsored groups have failed because victims feared they would be used by the church to gain information about them.

"This diocese owes victims much more than they have ever given in the past," he said. Endorsing SNAP, he added, "would conclusively show that they care."

Diocesan spokeswoman Joanne Novarro said the bishop is in Boston and had not yet seen the SNAP request. Murphy, who was the top aide to the cardinal there before coming to Long Island, is scheduled to testify today before a Massachusetts grand jury investigating whether the hierarchy of the Boston archdiocese committed any crimes in covering up the massive abuse scandal there.

However, Novarro said the diocese is already providing individual help. "I can tell you," she said, "that victims are and have been receiving therapy with various therapists with the bills sent to the diocese for payment."

Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said that to restore the confidence to victims and Long Island Catholics that the diocese was properly handling complaints, his office was willing to conduct an annual audit of how the diocese has handled allegations about priests that have come to it. Spota said he has not gotten a response on the invitation from the diocese.

In the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" that Murphy and the other American bishops signed in Dallas last May, was an agreement to "foster and encourage" support groups. Novarro said she is checking to see "where we are with support groups."

Cerulli said that the Catholic diocese in Toledo, Ohio, has put SNAP announcements in its diocesan paper, and that the Web site of the Baltimore diocese has a link to the SNAP site.


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