Laity Groups Call for Openness from Reilly, Worcester Diocese

By Kathleen A. Shaw
Telegram & Gazette [Worcester MA]
Downloaded June 26, 2003

WORCESTER- David J. O'Brien, director of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross, is calling on Catholics to become informed and ask questions about what American bishops are doing to resolve what he calls a 20-year-old sexual abuse scandal.

If public forums such as diocesan pastoral councils or priests councils are not available, he said, they may have to organize their own meetings "and seek the help of the much feared media."

Openness has emerged as an issue in the Worcester Diocese. Bishop Daniel P. Reilly has refused requests to open diocesan records on the scandal from Worcester Diocese Voice of the Faithful, an organization of concerned Catholics, and the Worcester Voice, another Catholic advocacy organization.

Local leadership of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests is also questioning whether the diocesan Office for Healing and Prevention is serious about helping victims.

Asking questions might seem to "perpetuate the pain of the crisis," Mr. O'Brien said, but the truth needs to come out before the church as a whole can move on.

"Bishops might well appreciate an old poster of a ragged person, head emerging from a wringer washer, under the heading: "The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable,'" he said.

Worcester Diocese Voice of the Faithful recently wrote a second letter to Bishop Reilly asking that all diocesan personnel and financial records be opened so that Catholics would know the full scope of the problem. The bishop has refused to open the records, saying that he turned over personnel records under grand jury subpoena to District Attorney John J. Conte.

Mary Keville, of Harvard, area VOTF coordinator, told the bishop that he was fulfilling the requirements of civil law but needed to heed the teachings of Jesus, who told people to be more righteous than the authorities of his time.

"We are extremely disappointed that you have chosen not to shed more light on the extent of the sexual abuse crisis in the diocese. We understand your reluctance to reveal the names of the perpetrators, however our letter requested a number of other disclosures that could be made without releasing names," Ms. Keville told the bishop.

Trust cannot be restored "until there is full acknowledgement by the diocese of what has occurred, including a detailed financial accounting," she said. The organization is also calling on the bishop to "make a formal apology" to the people of the diocese after full disclosure is made.

"Subscribing to the gospel value of honesty and moving away from secrecy is essential in restoring trust," Ms. Keville said.


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