Friday, February 19, 2010

Group urges bishop to seek out priest victims in South Bend area

WSBT - News, Weather, Sports South Bend

Group urges bishop to seek out priest victims in South Bend area
Originally printed at http://www.wsbt.com/news/local/84730832.html

SOUTH BEND — A sex abuse victims advocacy group today called on the Fort Wayne-South Bend bishop to seek out any local victims of a South Bend priest charged with abusing a child in his native Ireland.

Members of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, staged a press conference on the sidewalk outside the diocese’s downtown South Bend chancery office, 114 W. Wayne St. They urged the Most Rev. Bishop Kevin Rhoades to reach out to anyone who might have been molested by the Rev. Francis Markey, 82, of South Bend.

The Irish and U.S. governments are seeking Markey’s extradition back to Ireland, on charges alleging he raped a then-15-year-old boy there in 1968.

It’s unclear how Markey ended up in South Bend, but he most recently worked as a drug rehabilitation counselor in Niles. His Miller Court neighbors say he has lived at the South Bend address for about 10 years.

Diocesan officials say Markey has no affiliation with the diocese and has never been employed by it.

Still, SNAP president Barbara Blaine, of Chicago, said the bishop should use his stature and resources, including the diocesan Web site, newsletter and church bulletins, to tell area Catholics that it’s their "Christian duty" to come forward with any information they might have about sex crimes Markey might have perpetrated here.

"We think Catholic officials can and should do more to protect children and put sexual predators behind bars," Blaine said. "We think Bishop Rhoades is splitting hairs and shirking his responsibility."

After addressing reporters in South Bend, the handful of SNAP members went inside the building and asked a receptionist if they could hand-deliver a letter to Rhoades. The receptionist said he was in Fort Wayne, and agreed to receive the letter for him.

The group then drove to Fort Wayne and staged another press conference there.

"Church history, doctrine, structure and practice hold you are responsible for the safety and welfare of Catholics in your diocese," the letter states. "So we believe you have an obligation to alert others — both parishioners and the public — about these criminal charges, and aggressively prod people to call to call the police if they have seen, suspected or suffered any crimes by him."

Before the letter, Blaine said her group had not directly asked Rhoades to solicit information about Markey’s past conduct in the diocese. But she said he should have already taken the initiative to do that, rather than simply stating, in a prior Tribune report, that Markey had no affiliation with the diocese.

Diocese spokesman Vince LaBarbera told The Tribune today that the diocese is "always making efforts to encourage victims to come forward and I’m sure (Rhoades) would encourage anyone who has fallen victim to this priest."

LaBarbera said he did not know whether Rhoades would publish any messages specific to Markey. He said he would check with the bishop and call The Tribune back later today, but The Tribune has received no such return call.

Joining Blaine were several women who said they had been abused by other Catholic priests. They included Marge Miller, of Plymouth, who said a different Catholic priest in northwest Indiana abused her from age 5 to 9 in the late 1950s.

She held a poster board containing a picture of her as a girl, with the words, "I was only five," and a SNAP phone number for victims to call.

Meanwhile, Markey’s attorneys continued to fight his extradition.

After a hearing last Friday in which Markey’s attorneys argued against extradition, U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein said he had been "unpersuaded." He planned to issue a certificate of extraditability by this Friday.

Markey remained free on bail today. At the hearing, Nuechterlein said he planned to certify the extradition by Friday.

In written briefs filed in court this week, Markey’s attorneys argue that he should remain free on bail while he files more motions fighting the extradition.

However, Kenneth Hays, assistant U.S. attorney for northern Indiana, pointed to case and statutory law he says requires Markey to be jailed once the court certifies extradition.

Markey has appeared frail in court hearings. His supporters have said his health took a dramatic downturn during the week he spent in jail after his arrest in November, before he was allowed to post bail.

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