Published on Monday, April 11, 2005 by Reuters
U.S. Victims of Abuse Slam Vatican Over Cardinal Law
by Claudia Parsons
ROME -- A group of U.S. victims of child abuse by priests said on Monday the Catholic Church was "rubbing salt in an open wound" by allowing the cardinal they hold responsible to say a memorial mass for the Pope.
Cardinal Bernard Law was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston in 2002 over the abuse scandal. He was blamed for allowing priests known to have sexually abused minors to be moved from parish to parish instead of being sacked.
"He is like the poster child for the sex abuse scandal," said Barbara Blaine who came to Rome to represent some 5,600 members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
"He appears to be the most complicit bishop in transferring abusive priests from one place to another," she told Reuters in an interview after arriving from Chicago to protest at Monday's Mass presided over by Law. "It is very painful -- his image brings out all this hurt and pain and devastation."
"There are thousands of victims that might not have been abused had Law acted appropriately," she said.
Blaine, who says she was abused by her parish priest from 1969 to 1974, said for Law to take on such a prominent role in the mourning rites for the Pope was like "rubbing salt in an open wound" for thousands of victims of abuse by priests.
"At this extremely significant and painful time for Catholics and victims ... they should not have to be confronting this sex abuse scandal," she said.
Even if protocol dictated Law should preside at the mass, he should have recused himself out of sensitivity for the victims, she said.
ABUSED AT SCHOOL
Barbara Dorris, who was abused by the priest at her school from the age of six and now runs a support group for other victims in St. Louis, looked tense as the dome of St. Peter's Basilica came into view on the drive into Rome.
She said it was bad enough that Law had been "rewarded" by the appointment as Archpriest of St. Mary Major in Rome, but to see him preside at the important mass on Monday gave the impression that the Church valued him more than the victims.
"We feel it intimidates victims into silence," she said, adding that it had taken years for her to break her silence about the abuse -- she only did so when she was working as a teacher herself and discovered a priest abusing children.
She said one woman she spoke to had never told her husband in 40 years of marriage and was still unable to discuss her experience except in the support group. "She just wanted to tell her story once before she died," Dorris said.
The two women planned to protest outside St. Peter's on Monday with supporters in the hope of doing something to persuade the Catholic Church to do more to stop abuse which Blaine said she believed was still happening around the world.
"The abuse is so devastating to the victims that we never get over it," Blaine said. "Most of our members are haunted by this every day, so the only thing to do is to prevent any more abuse happening."
"When the Cardinals are choosing a new pope we want them to recognize and consider the fact that the sex abuse scandal will be part of the new Papacy," she added.
© Reuters 2005