Sunday, June 09, 2002

Bishops revoke invitation to abuse victims' group


Lawsuit against dioceses undermined cooperation, negotiator says

The Associated Press

        The U.S. Roman Catholic bishops revoked a speaking invitation for leaders of an organization of sex abuse victims, but individuals will be invited to meet with members of the bishops' committee on sexual abuse, the bishops' spokesman said Saturday.

        Three individuals still will address the bishops' meeting this week in Dallas at the meeting that begins Thursday, Monsignor Francis Maniscalco said.

        David Clohessy, director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said he expects some members would accept the offer to talk as individuals because “the stakes are obviously very high. We're talking about children's safety.”

        Monsignor Maniscalco said the bishops revoked the invitation Friday because the survivors' network sued the organization and several dioceses Thursday, seeking to void confidentiality agreements in settlements with victims.

        The network had also been scheduled to meet privately with three cardinals before the bishops' meeting opens. The bishops' conference said the network would not be part of that discussion either.

        The bar to Wednesday's all-day meeting of the sexual abuse committee is especially important because it will be making last-minute changes in policy proposals the bishops will take up Thursday and Friday.

        Mr. Clohessy said he was “stunned” by the bishops' action so soon after plans for the meetings were finalized late Thursday.

        Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the bishops' conference, said he had been working with the network for more than a month to arrange participation in Dallas and was upset his efforts were “met with a lawsuit.”

        “We are very disappointed that just at the moment when frank and productive meetings could occur, SNAP has created a barrier to the very cooperation you have called for so often in the past,” Bishop Gregory said.

        In other developments:

        • A priest in the Worcester, Mass., diocese has been removed from his duties, spokesman Raymond L. Delisle said. A lawyer told the diocese that a woman said her 8-year-old son was molested in 1980 by the Rev. Raymond P. Messier. He did not return a message left Saturday at the rectory in Athol.

        • Police said they are investigating allegations against a priest that involved “inappropriate conduct” with a minor 28 years ago. The Los Angeles archdiocese removed Monsignor Chris Van Liefde from his rectory in Panorama City last month. Monsignor Van Liefde wrote a statement to parishioners asking for forgiveness for the embarrassment he caused.

       



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