Retired Bishop: Church Could Have Done More for Sex Abuse Victims

July 23, 2006

Jersey City, N.J. (AP) — The Roman Catholic Church acted like a "corporate entity" in its handling of sex abuse scandals, a retired bishop told one of the nation's largest organizations for clergy sex abuse victims during a weekend conference.

Thomas J. Gumbleton, who resigned earlier this year as an auxiliary bishop of Detroit, said he had a hard time with any bishop caring more about money than children.

"Even if we became totally poor, that's where the church started _ who cares?" Gumbleton said Saturday during the national conference for Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

The weekend conference in Jersey City, expected to end Sunday afternoon, included workshops on legal and political strategies for the organization's goals to further victims causes, reform the Roman Catholic church and help victims heal.

A liberal voice in the U.S. church, Gumbleton, 76, revealed in January that a priest abused him 60 years ago, a disclosure that drew attention among those who say they were abused.

"I am with you as a survivor," Gumbleton told the gathering at the conference.

Gumbleton is believed to be the first U.S. bishop to disclose that he was a victim of sexual abuse by clergy.

He has been an advocate of extending the statute of limitations on lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by priests. He has said in the past that he revealed his own abuse now because he thought it might help other victims.

Some at the conference, though, questioned why Gumbleton didn't use his position to do more against abuse.

"Never trust a bishop," Steve Rabi, who reached an out-of-court settlement with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Paterson over sexual abuse claims, told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Sunday newspapers.

"I think he's in denial as far as his culpability," Rabi said.

Founded in 1989, Chicago-based SNAP has been a strong critic of church reforms, claiming that many bishops handle accusers as legal obstacles, instead of people needing help. The group has been pushing across the country for laws removing statutes of limitations on clergy sex abuse cases.


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