Sharing Stories and Pain

By Nyier Abdou and Jeff Diamant
The Jersey Journal
July 24, 2006

More than 300 members of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests met in Jersey City this weekend and heard from a retired Catholic bishop who, earlier this year, became the first and only Catholic bishop in America to reveal he was sexually abused by a clergy member.

"I'm honored to stand here not just before you, but with you," the Rev. Thomas J. Gumbleton, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Detroit, told SNAP members Saturday morning. "I am with you as a survivor."

Gumbleton, who revealed in January he had been abused when he was a teenage student in the seminary, also apologized for difficulties victims face reporting abuse, and criticized the church's handling of sex abuse scandals, saying the church has acted more like a "corporate entity" than it should.

"I find it hard how any bishop could care more about money than about children," he said. "Even if we became totally poor, that's where the church started - who cares?"

Gumbleton said victims of abuse who are willing to expose themselves to public scrutiny are a "huge gift to our church and our whole society.

"The church is safer because of you," he said.

The three-day national conference at the Hyatt Regency in Jersey City, which concluded yesterday, also included separate workshops about tackling legal issues, therapy and lobbying political powers.

SNAP, founded in 1989, gained heightened attention in 2002 after revelations that many bishops had protected priests who abused minors. It has charged that many bishops treat accusers more like legal obstacles than people who need help.

On Friday night, SNAP National Director David Clohessy urged victims to keep pushing for legislation to remove statutes of limitation that prevent many victims from suing dioceses in decades-old abuse cases.

"The next few years are going to be tough," Clohessy said. "Public attention, let's face it, is beginning to wane. Public outrage is ever so slowly on the decline. There are people out there ... who are getting tired of hearing about these horrific crimes and about our pain."


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