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