This group has joined hands with Silentlambs in the fight against religious sexual abuse. There are by similarities in their fights If there is no SL member nearby, please contact them for support and help (though keep contacting Kim Norris re legal issues).
Victims talk about priest sex abuse
Norwalk SNAP members tell of lost innocence
By ANDREW BROPHY [email protected]
Sunday, September 26, 2004 -
Joe Monte, 47, of Bridgeport, said Saturday that the sexual abuse he suffered at a Catholic boarding school in Boston scarred him for life.
"They're somehow stuck in childhood, a lot of them, in one capacity or another," Monte said of sexual abuse victims. "I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up."
During a lunch break at the first meeting of the Connecticut chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Monte said the director of the former Cushing Hall Academy would climb into bed with Monte and cover his mouth while he abused him.
"It was not an every night occurrence. It was very sporadic," Monte said. He was 12 years old at the time.
Monte said he later became a runaway, ward of the state and an alcoholic because of his struggle to come to terms with the abuse.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canon lawyer and SNAP's keynote speaker, said sexual abuse by priests "has an impact on [the victim] that is far-reaching and can perhaps extend throughout their whole life."
Priests who abuse children not only rape their bodies, but also rape their souls, taking away their religion and spirituality, Doyle said.
Victims of sexual abuse by priests, a scandal that has rocked the Catholic church, met in Norwalk Community College Saturday to support each other and to discover the progress made in their and their allies' attempts to hold the Catholic church accountable.
It was the first meeting of SNAP's Connecticut chapter, which formed eight months ago.
Landa Mauriello-Vernon, director of SNAP CT, said the organization exists to "reach out to victims suffering in silence" and to "call for accountability."
On the legal front, Doyle said the Catholic church was on the losing side of two important court decisions in California.
One said the church, as an institution, can be held liable for what its members do; the other said the separation of church and state did not apply to Archdiocese of Los Angeles files sought by prosecutors, Doyle said.
On the social front, Doyle said the deference given to priests, who are viewed as morally above the laity in the Catholic religion, was evaporating. Doyle contended that the laity's deference to priests enabled the Catholic church to bury allegations of abuse.
"We're being liberated from the chains of this control," Doyle said. "This is the 21st century. The age of monarchies is gone. You can't tell people 'Jump,' and they'll ask 'How high?' on the way up."
"The most important person in the church is not the pope, bishops or cardinals, but the one who's most hurting and most in need of compassion," he said. "This time around, the institutional church is not in control."
Doyle said he had not lost his faith, but its source was "no longer institutions and power holders."
"It's Christ," Doyle said. "Eliminate the middle man. You get a much better result."
Doyle said "a vast amount of scholarly research" was still going on to discover why priests sexually abused children, but the Catholic church was "unfortunately the one entity not involved."
The mandatory celibacy of priests was not part of any sacramental rites and seemed to have "a profound effect on the stability and emotional maturity of clerics," Doyle said.
Though abuse by priests came to the forefront 20 years ago, Doyle said it's been taking place much longer. He said the Council of Elvira in Spain in the year 309 passed a law that forbid priests from sexually abusing boys.
Sexual abuse by priests was more than a crisis, Doyle said.
"This is an era," he said. "My hope, nave as it is, is that the church will emerge stronger, more pure, much more compassionate and capable of healing."
Monte said he came forward with his allegations of abuse in 1994 around the time that Frank Fitzpatrick Jr. was pushing authorities to investigate the Rev. James Porter of Falls River, Mass.
Monte said his abuser was put on administrative leave for two years and had retired by the time another victim came forward eight years later.
A woman who did not identify herself in SNAP's meeting spoke of the shame she felt after being abused by a priest, but said she now knew the abuse "was not my sin."
Fight against abuse by clergy far from over, survivors say
September 26, 2004
NORWALK -- A conference on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church held at Norwalk Community College yesterday drew about 150 victims, supporters and health professionals.
The daylong seminar hosted by SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was the first in Connecticut. Since February, two Connecticut SNAP chapters were launched in Bridgeport and East Hartford.
SNAP state Director Landa Mauriello-Vernon, of Hamden, told attendees that when the Bridgeport chapter got its start, it had only eight members.
Eight months later, the chapter has 58 members. More than 90 percent of the roster consists of people who were sexually molested by clergy, Mauriello-Vernon said.
Mauriello-Vernon, who has a civil suit pending against a nun who she alleges sexually assaulted her while she was a student at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, said abuse has not come to an end.
"There may not be articles in the newspaper every day, there may not be lawsuits filed every day as a result of the statute of limitations put on survivors, but it is in no way over," she said.
Her comments and those of a former U.S. Air Force chaplain critical of the church came a day after the Diocese of Bridgeport released a report saying that its churches are in complete compliance with the Roman Catholic church's policy for protecting minors from sex abuse.
"The measures we have taken have increased significantly the accountability within our parishes, schools and institutions to continue to build a safe environment," Bishop William Lori said in a statement released Friday.
The diocese, which oversees 87 parishes in Fairfield County, was audited by Boston-based Gavin Group from June 2003 to this month in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The policy is a zero-tolerance sex abuse policy drafted by the U.S. Bishops at their historic Dallas conference in June 2002.
According to the diocese release, the auditors looked at the adequacy of policies that included responding to complaints, outreach to victims, the independence of lay review boards and policies for removing priests who have abused.
The report states, "The diocese has established clear and well-publicized standards of ministerial behavior for priests and deacons. A communication policy is in effect which reflects the bishop's pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children."
"As I have said before," Bishop Lori stated, "We are moving forward together as a family of faith in the right direction."
Inside NCC's PepsiCo theater, however, there was disagreement about the church's path.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who was ordained 34 years ago and is preparing to publish a book with two other researchers on the history of Catholic church law against violations of celibacy, said the sexual abuse crisis is changing people's perception of the church and its hierarchy.
"It's changed society and its approach to organized religion, and it's changed organized religion. It has begun or accelerated a process to demythologize organized churches, especially Catholicism. It's been removed from the area of magical thinking down to what it really is, a human organization that hopefully is inspired by solid spiritual principals, but oftentimes can prostitute those principles and prostitute itself," said Doyle, who calls himself a recovering Catholic.
Doyle, who said he was removed as a chaplain only months before his retirement from the Air Force last month, said the sexual abuse that occurred over the past 20 years has transferred much of the control of sexual predators inside the church out of the hands of the church hierarchy.
"The refusal of adult victim survivors to not back down and knuckle under and pay, pray and obey, has been one of the key features in bringing about accountability and healing for tens of thousands," said Doyle. "This time around, the institutional church is not in control. You are in control of incidents of violations of clerical celibacy, not the bishops."
Norwalk resident Jim Alvord, whose support for those who have been sexually abused began about two years ago, was awarded SNAP's Survivors Lifeline Award.
SNAP's New York City Director David Cerulli said: "Jim's compassion for and understanding of the struggle that survivors endure is something that has been so inspiring to me and many other survivors."
Copyright © 2004, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.