SNAP Connecticut

Church sex abuse conference focuses on actions of bishops

The Connecticut Post
May 02, 2004

While national Roman Catholic Church officials maintain the abuse scandal in the church is "history," more than 200 people who gathered at Fairfield University Saturday showed it has not been forgotten.

At a conference sponsored by Voice of the Faithful of the Diocese of Bridgeport, speaker after speaker raised the concern that church officials are still not doing enough to help survivors of abuse by priests and prevent more abuse from occurring.

"Holding bishops who covered up abuse and moved predatory priests around is still something that must be addressed," said David Cerulli, head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) for New York City. "If zero policy is for wayward priests, why not for failed bishops?"

New York's Cardinal Edward Egan, the former bishop of the Bridgeport diocese, knew about priests abusing children in the Bridgeport diocese but kept it secret, moving offending priests from parish to parish, court documents show. Yet he has not been made to account for his actions.

Since 1953 the Bridgeport diocese has paid $37.7 million in 89 settlements to people who claimed they were abused by priests; 66 of those settlements occurred within the past four years.

Jose O'Callaghan, the head of the VOTF chapter in the Bridgeport Diocese, said those figures make this diocese the fifth largest in abuse settlements in the country.

Michael Powel tugged at the motions of the group as he tearfully recounted his abuse as a child at the hands of a former handyman at St. Theresa's Parish in Trumbull.

"They are worshipping our Lord as a false idol to get to children," he said.

Landa Mauriello-Vernon, the head of the newly formed Connecticut chapter of SNAP, and the victim of abuse at the hands of a nun when she was a teenager, said in the few short weeks since she started the chapter it has attracted more than 40 members.

"Because of the courage of those who went before me, I was able to call myself a survivor," she said.

Mauriello-Vernon said she sent a letter to Bishop William Lori asking him to post information about SNAP in local churches, but did not get a reply.

"The bishops here are afraid of the story of survivors," she said.

David O'Brien, director of the center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of Holy Cross, urged Voice of the Faithful and other groups that started in reaction to the church scandal to remain vigilant in their efforts to seek accountability from church officials.

"You are responsible for the corporate life in the diocese," he told them.

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Last Updated: October 26, 2005