Americans Want to See Pope to Express Concerns over Sex Abuse
By Victor L. Simpson
Associated Press, carried in Boston.com [Vatican]
March 24, 2003
ROME (AP) Three Americans, who claim they were victims of priestly sex abuse as children, said Monday they have been unable to obtain a meeting with Pope John Paul II to express their concerns over the scandal that has engulfed the Roman Catholic Church in the United States.
"We will knock on any door until one opens," said Gary Bergeron, of Lowell, Mass., who came to Rome with his father, Joseph Bergeron, 78, and Bernie McDade of Salem.
Gary Bergeron and McDade said they were abused as children by the same priest, the Rev. Joseph Birmingham, who died in 1989.
At the time of the alleged abuse, Birmingham was serving at St. James parish in Salem alongside John McCormack, now bishop of New Hampshire. Bergeron and other alleged victims say McCormack knew Birmingham was molesting children, but did nothing to stop him, an allegation McCormack has denied.
Joseph Bergeron said he too was abused when he was an 8-year-old altar boy.
Gary Bergeron, who has been an outspoken critic of the Church's handling of abusive priests, said he doesn't believe John Paul understands the extent of the scandal in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
"I would like five minutes to explain what is really going on," Bergeron said at a news conference at the Foreign Press Association.
Some 500 lawsuits have been filed against the Boston archdiocese alleging decades-long mishandling of priests accused of sexually abusing children. In the United States, at least 325 of the country's 46,000 priests have resigned or been removed from their posts in the scandal.
Bergeron said they had written to about "a dozen" Vatican officials and that several responded, but no audience with the pope has been arranged. He declined to name the officials they contacted.
Before leaving the United States, Bergeron said he had sought help from the papal nuncio in Washington, Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, and the U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, James Nicholson, to arrange an audience with John Paul.
Nicholson sent on the request to the Vatican, said a spokeswoman for the ambassador, Lorene Gros-Daillon.
A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, said he had no information on individual requests to see the pope.
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