Friday, June 25, 2010

Parishioners rally against Fall River Diocese's sexual abuse policy

Parishioners rally against Fall River Diocese's sexual abuse policy

Photos
Purchase this Photo Herald News Photo | Will Richmond.Diocese of Fall River parishioners and members of the Voice of the Faithful rally in front of Bishop George Coleman’s office on Thursday, calling for the release of the names of clergy members accused of sexual abuse.

By Will Richmond
Herald News Staff Reporter
Posted Jun 24, 2010 @ 09:00 PM
Last update Jun 24, 2010 @ 11:25 PM
Fall River — Following Pope Benedict’s call to “Do everything possible” to prevent future sexual abuse cases in the Catholic church, a group of Fall River diocesan parishioners joined together Thursday to call on Bishop George Coleman to do his part.

Backed by about a dozen parishioners standing outside the Diocese of Fall River’s main office on Underwood Street, Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, called on Coleman to publicly release the names of all clergy members accused of sexual abuse.

“Bishop Coleman has not only not released the list, but he hasn’t even discussed the Pope’s “Do everything possible” proclamation to heal this wound,” Doyle said. “The best way to prevent a child being sexually abused is to see that that person is put in jail. The second best way is to name those who have been identified as offenders.”

Doyle also hand delivered a letter to staff in Coleman’s office calling for the list’s release.

The rally came on the same day that similar groups stood outside diocesan offices in Boston, Springfield and Worcester. In both Boston and Springfield, diocesan leaders, Doyle said, have agreed to release such lists.

But Doyle described the Fall River branch as being “famous nationwide” for refusing to disclose such information, saying that it was only due to frustration with the diocese in 2003 that then Bristol County District Attorney Paul Walsh released such a list.

Diocese spokesman John Kearns said the organization will release a clergy member's name upon determining a complaint to be credible. He said the notice is placed on the organization’s website and members of the affected parish are notified through various outlets.

“Every time we receive an allegation that is deemed credible, we put out a release and release the details of what we know and provide contact information to let people know how to follow up with us,” Kearns said.

Those parishioners — who said they are also members of the Voice of the Faithful — standing in the heat Thursday feel enough is not being done and that the Diocese is still protecting many clergy members. They said Coleman had been open to meetings up until 2005 to release such a list, but then suddenly stopped.

“I think the assumption is if we wait long enough we’ll all go away,” Gerry Hart said.

“To say you care about the children in their diocese and not release their names is a scandal,” Arlene Todd added.

Kearns disputed such claims, saying the diocese is doing its part.

“We want to do whatever we can to stop the abuse,” Kearns said. “That’s why we’ve had this policy in place and continue to strengthen it as we see fit.”

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