Siena Holds "Trusting the Clergy?" Seminar

By Duarte Geraldino
March 29, 2003

Albany Catholic Walt Pologa said, "Do you know 166 diocese in the United States out of 177 reported child abuse?"

Questions like that drew more than 300 people to a Siena College seminar on sex abuse and the Catholic Church called "Trusting the Clergy?"

The event's organizers said the forum wasn't intended to be a mass confessional. Instead, it was a look at the extent of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church and in society in general. It was an examination of solutions and a way to encourage the creation and implementation of new ones.

The chair of last year's historic Meeting of Bishops in Dallas, Archbishop Harry Flynn, said newly-established church-wide standards for responding to sexual abuse claims is a concrete move toward preventing abuse. He also said individual misconduct by some clergymen is not common among the majority of 45,000 priests in the U.S.

Abuse survivor Dr. Michael Bland said, "It was an individual who abused me and he happened to be a priest."

He said in the past, there was too much focus on helping offending priests battle their demons, instead of helping victims heal their wounds.

The ordination process, explained Archbishop Flynn, creates a special bond between priest and bishop.

He said, "Through the ordination ceremony, so the man is promising him obedience and he's promising this man that he will take care of him in many ways. The church has always been a gathering for saints and sinners. And so we can't exclude the sinner, just as we can't exclude the saints."

And as the church's new frame-of-mind shows they must also include many voices in search for solutions.

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