Friday, May 10, 2002

Group offers church advice

Outlines how priests' victims can be helped

By Dan Horn,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A national advocacy group asked the Archdiocese of Cincinnati on Thursday to do more to help children who have been molested by priests.

        The request was part of a 22-city campaign to persuade church officials to more aggressively root out dangerous priests.

        The Chicago-based group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, urged church officials to report all abuse allegations to authorities and to push for new laws that would make it easier to prosecute child molesters.

        A representative of the group, Michael Hancock, delivered a list of recommendations Thursday morning to the archdiocese's offices in downtown Cincinnati.

        He said church officials in Cincinnati and other cities too often are reluctant to disclose information about abusive priests to the public and to law enforcement.

        Disclosure has been an issue in Cincinnati. Hamilton County prosecutors have accused church officials of not cooperating with their investigation into old abuse allegations.

        “If there is past abuse, it should be reported immediately,” said Mr. Hancock, of Liberty Township. “It should be carte blanche authorization. It should be, "Here are our files, take a look at them.'”

        His group, which claims 4,000 members nationwide, presented its recommendations to bishops and archbishops in 22 cities Thursday in hopes they would be discussed in June when church officials gather for a bishops conference in Dallas.

        The group wants the bishops to open their files to prosecutors, to turn over all information about old abuse allegations and to lobby lawmakers to extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse crimes.

        The statute bars prosecution of suspects if the allegations come to light years later.

        Church officials contend they already provide all documents they are legally permitted to provide. And they note that the statute of limitation already has been extended to 20 years in Ohio for many crimes, although it does not retroactively apply to old abuse cases.

        Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said full disclosure of old abuse allegations is a thornier issue because many victims who come forward years later as adults have asked for confidentiality.

        But he said the church does not discourage victims from going to police on their own.

        “We have never done anything to stop a victim or victim's family or anybody else from reporting to authorities,” Mr. Andriacco said.


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