Thursday, July 22, 2010

Priest abuse support group seeks to stop concert at Catholic retreat center

Priest abuse support group seeks to stop concert at Catholic retreat center
By DOUG ERICKSON |
Wednesday, July 21, 2010 3:59 pm | (4) Comments

.A support group for child sex abuse victims wants Madison Bishop Robert Morlino to step in and force the cancellation of an upcoming concert at a Catholic retreat center because the choir's director is accused of child sex abuse in a civil lawsuit.

The Chicago-based group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, is objecting to a concert Sunday by the 60-member Chorale Midwest of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Sinsinawa Mound Center, a retreat center run by Dominican nuns in southwest Wisconsin. The center is about 90 miles southwest of Madison and within the Madison Catholic Diocese.

The choir is directed by Bradley T. Barrett, who was sued last year by a man claiming he was sexually abused by Barrett in the mid-1990s as a student at a public high school in Missouri where Barrett taught vocal music. The civil suit is pending.

"Letting Barrett perform at a Catholic facility sends a hurtful message to all abuse victims — no matter who their perpetrator may have been," SNAP wrote in a letter to Morlino Wednesday.

Brent King, a diocesan spokesman, said the diocese was not aware of the situation prior to SNAP's letter but has since asked the Sisters of Sinsinawa to "take all appropriate measures" to ensure everyone's safety. "This is all the diocese has the power to do in this situation," he said.

Although the Sinsinawa Mound Center is Catholic-affiliated, it is a private entity that operates independent of the diocese, much like Edgewood High School and St. Mary's Hospital, both in Madison, King said. The center is not required to vet its speakers or guests with the diocese, he said.

The situation would be very different if the allegation had been made against a priest or other church employee, King said. But since this is a civil lawsuit against a secular employee, "the church has no standing to look into the case," he said.

King added that "pending the outcome of the suit, the man has a right to work."

Tricia Buxton, a spokeswoman for the Sinsinawa Mound Center, declined comment.

One of Barrett's attorneys, David Dutton, called SNAP's effort to get the concert cancelled "preposterous."

"An accusation of this sort, which so far is unfounded and was made by a person seeking money, is hardly a basis to deny a person his full rights and freedoms," Dutton said.

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