Meeting of Minds on Crisis of Faith
Colonie -- Forum Aims to Give Scholars, Clergy and Laity a Chance to Air Views on Sexual Abuse Scandal

By Andrew Tilghman
The Times Union [Albany NY]
March 29, 2003

Albany Bishop Howard Hubbard will introduce Archbishop Harry Flynn, who will deliver the opening address this morning at Siena College at a daylong symposium on the sexual abuse crisis.

Flynn, a former Latham priest who heads the archdiocese of St. Paul/Minneapolis, is the Catholic church's foremost expert on issues involving sexual abuse.

"Trusting the Clergy? The Churches and Communities Come to Grips with Sexual Misconduct" will put church leaders, experts, victims, social workers and others in a face-to-face conversation.

"We are looking for a better understanding of the situation, its causes, its roots, its implications and where we might go from here," said James Dalton, a religious studies professor at Siena and organizer of the event. "We need to have this kind of reflection, and that is the role of the university."

Nearly 400 people have registered to attend the first-of-its-kind event at the Sarazen Student Union on the Loudonville campus. In addition to Flynn's address, the Rev. Donald B. Cozzens, professor of religious studies at John Carroll University, will speak in the afternoon, and there will be four panel discussions. The proceedings will be published later this year in the Journal of Religion and Abuse, Dalton said.

Hubbard will be on a panel with Carolyn Newberger, a Boston clinical psychologist, and the Rev. Marie Fortune, a United Church of Christ minister and author from Seattle. The Rev. Kenneth Doyle, chancellor of the Albany Diocese, will moderate that discussion.

Many Catholic leaders are facing similar problems, Newberger said.

"I think the leadership is struggling with the inherent conflict between their concern about the church as an institution, with the legal initiatives that are going on and their need to respond to parishioners and to parishioners' needs," Newberger said.

The struggles stemming from the crisis reach into the pews of all denominations, Fortune said.

"The laity are clearly in a difficult position," Fortune said. "If they themselves or members of their family have not been victims, it is very hard to believe because it's not their experience -- nobody wants to believe it.

"On the other hand, those who have been touched directly are very clear about the price of their pain. There definitely is a conflict between those two groups."

Today's symposium will be one of the largest public discussions of clergy sexual abuse since a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June 2002, organizers and participants said.

"This is a conference in which there is an attempt to engage in the hard discussions that are required," Newberger said.

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