Friday, April 26, 2002

Church meeting results disappoint some in area

By Richelle Thompson,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When Guy Guckenberger Jr. heard Pope John Paul II's stern message Tuesday that sex abuse by priests was a crime, he felt a glimmer of hope.

        By Thursday, he was angry.

Micky Dasenbrock, mother of two sons a priest molested: “These cardinals got wined and dined and nothing changed.”
        “The (church) thinks it's something they can pray away,” said Mr. Guckenberger, who was molested by a priest at age 10. “These guys are playing Russian roulette with kids' lives.”

        Mr. Guckenberger and other area residents criticized the outcome of a special meeting of the American Catholic cardinals with the pope at the Vatican.

        Church leaders said they would make it easier to remove any priest who is “notorious and is guilty of the serial, predatory sexual abuse of minors.”

        “This is total silliness,” said Micky Dasenbrock, mother of two boys who were abused in the early 1980s by now-defrocked priest George Cooley. “These cardinals got wined and dined and nothing changed. Either it's a crime, or it isn't. You can forgive sins, but that doesn't mean you don't punish the crime.”

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen said that while the pope provided needed leadership, he was disappointed with the outcome.

        “There was not a clear and unequivocal statement that when people in authority in the church learn of abuse, they should report it to the (legal) authorities. That's what prosecutors hoped to hear,” Mr. Allen said. “What they do administratively with priests is their business. What I am concerned with is prosecuting those who commit crimes.”

        A Hamilton County grand jury has subpoenaed records about sex abuse allegations from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. The archdiocese has acknowledged that “fewer than five” priests with a history of sexual misconduct remain in priestly roles. In the Diocese of Covington, three priests with abuse allegations still are active.

        Church leadership is trying to dodge the problem, said Steve Heinen of White Oak.

        “There should be zero tolerance, literally,” said Mr. Heinen, who grew up Catholic but now attends a Protestant church. “If they've done it, (priests) should have to suffer the legal consequences. They should abide by the laws of this land. The Bible clearly states that.”

        For Catholic volunteer Randy Schulz, the statement signals a double standard in the church.

        “If I were a predator and preyed on small children, I would go to jail. ... Being a priest shouldn't be different,” said Mr. Schulz, of Greenhills. “I feel like we're going back to square one, and things aren't going to get any better.”

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