Thursday, June 18, 2009

New focus in pursuit of abuse by clergy

New focus in pursuit of abuse by clergy
Irish report spurs area group to look at church schools
By Michael Paulson, Globe Staff | June 18, 2009

Five weeks after an Irish commission released a devastating report about abuse at Catholic children’s institutions there, a Waltham-based organization is starting an effort to compile evidence about what it believes was a similar pattern of abuse at Catholic institutions in the United States.

BishopAccountability.org, an organization that maintains an Internet-based archive about clergy sexual abuse, published on its website yesterday a list of twelve Catholic institutions whose faculty or staff have faced allegations of child sexual abuse.

Organizers are hoping to rapidly expand that list, including schools in and around Boston.

Many of the schools where the abuse allegedly took place were run by religious orders, not dioceses, and are no longer open. Many such allegations are already public through lawsuits or media coverage, but organizers of the new archive expect more accusers to emerge as a result of the effort.

“This was inspired by the Ireland report,’’ said Anne Barrett Doyle, codirector of BishopAccountability.org. “We realized that there has been no accounting here of the abuse of kids in minor seminaries, boarding schools, reform schools, and orphanages run by the church.’’

A spokeswoman for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Sister Mary Ann Walsh, said, “Anyone abused in any US diocese, be it in a church or church institution, has been urged to come forward.

“As a result, many have received needed assistance,’’ she said. “The bishops have been relentless in addressing sexual abuse and continue to be.’’

There have been allegations of abuse at a number of institutions for young people in the Boston area.

For example, John Vellante, a 64-year-old Haverhill resident, says he was abused as a 13-year-old at a minor seminary run by the Stigmatine religious order in Wellesley in 1958 and 1959. Vellante’s alleged abuser, Leo P. Landry, was dismissed from the clergy in 1972 and pleaded guilty to abuse charges in 2004.

Vellante, a retired Boston Globe employee who contributes a sports column in the Globe North section, said he supports the BishopAccountability effort, “just to prove to people that it happened here, too.’’

“It’s not just in Ireland, and I’m sure it’s not just in the US,’’ he said. “I’m sure you’re going to find it all over the world.’’

There are important differences between the Irish situation and that in the United States. The Irish institutions, for orphans and troubled children, were government-regulated but church-run, whereas the institutions in the United States were largely independent of the government and often of each other.

“Because of our system, which was scattershot and not systematic, it’s hard to hold anyone accountable,’’ Barrett Doyle said. “But there is a colossal hidden problem here.’’

© Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

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