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#85040 - 09/24/02 10:09 PM Group raises funds to help some priests accused in sex cases
orodo Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 03/15/02
Posts: 735
Loc: Imladris, The Safe Haven of Ar...
Group raises funds to help some priests accused in sex cases

September 23, 2002

BY ALEXA CAPELOTO AND PATRICIA MONTEMURRI
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITERS

The phone calls have rolled in from a dozen states, most beginning with the same question: "Are you the guy who helps priests?"

Joe Maher, surprised by the national reach of work he started in Detroit, finds himself answering, "Yep, I guess I am."

Three weeks ago, a visiting priest at Maher's parish, Assumption Grotto Catholic Church in Detroit, was acquitted of raping a choir member. Maher raised $100,000 for the priest's expenses. Word spread and the calls began.

Now Maher, 42, has quit his job as a financial systems analyst to start Opus Bono Sacerdotii -- Latin for Work for the Good of the Priesthood -- a financial and spiritual support group for priests who say they are innocent of alleged misconduct or who are repentant and reformed.

"These priests need help," Maher of Redford Township said last week. "Once their names are in the newspaper, it's over for them. It's very difficult to overcome it."

Maher planned to leave Michigan today to meetwith supporters of accused priests in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Massachusetts. He has fielded calls from more than 20 accused clergy members, several parishioners and, he said, two unnamed bishops asking for advice or aid.

His championing of targeted priests is relatively uncharted territory in the Catholic Church's ongoing sex abuse scandal. It's a cause lauded by some as overdue and condemned by others as insulting.

The Rev. Thomas Reese, a Jesuit priest who is editor of the Catholic weekly magazine America, said Opus Bono Sacerdotii could be construed as a "civil liberties union looking out for the rights of the accused."

Mark Serrano of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests sees it differently: "You don't see any legal defense funds established for child molesters in professions like teaching or coaching. What I would ask this group is, how many survivors of clergy abuse have they met? How many stories have they heard personally?"

Under the Opus Bono Sacerdotii name, Maher sent letters to Assumption Grotto parishioners this summer soliciting money for the Rev. Komlan Dem Houndjame's legal fees, living expenses and health insurance during his rape trial. Parishioners gave $15,000 to help the priest, also known as Father Felicien, and Maher, a business colleague named Peter Ferrara and an unnamed benefactor put up another $85,000, Maher said. A Wayne County jury acquitted the priest Aug. 30.

The fund-raising group is not affiliated with the Archdiocese of Detroit.

With the money it got for the Houndjame case, Opus Bono Sacerdotii has drawn up bylaws and a brochure with St. Peter's Basilica in Rome on the cover and a photo inside of Houndjame and Assumption's pastor, the Rev. Eduard Perrone, smiling together.

Twelve people sit on an advisory board that will consult on each potential client, Maher said. He declined to name the members but said one is a bishop. The group also has decided that, in addition to helping priests with expenses, it will support abuse treatment facilities and research on sexuality.

"It is not a favoring of a priest over an alleged victim. That would be manifestly unjust and unbalanced," said Perrone, who has agreed to serve as the group's chaplain. "This is merely providing an immediate need for priests who don't have the means for a defense."

Opus Bono Sacerdotii is seeking status as a tax-exempt organization, which would allow donors to make tax-deductible contributions. It has yet to register as a charity with the Michigan Attorney General's Office, though it plans to and has printed donation cards asking would-be givers to check off contributions ranging from $100 to $50,000. Maher also said he has not found any other organization like his in the country.

Although Opus Bono Sacerdotii's literature says it helps current priests, Maher has decided to make an exception for a second client, Jason Sigler, a former priest from River Rouge who has faced several civil lawsuits by onetime altar boys in New Mexico and now stands charged with criminal sexual conduct in Wayne County.

"It's a unique case because he is no longer a priest, but the allegations are 38 years old," Maher said. "Jason has been married for 20 years. He's been a model citizen and a good Catholic man."

That is not enough justification for Macomb Township resident Tony Otero, who alleges that Sigler molested him at a Flushing parish in the 1960s. Otero is cooperating with Genesee County prosecutors, who are investigating the ex-priest for possible criminal charges.

"It doesn't matter whether he has changed his ways or not, he hasn't paid for his actions," Otero said last week. "People have to go back and make amends for what they have done."

Msgr. Robert Humitz, president of the Presbyteral Council that represents 800 priests who work in the Archdiocese of Detroit, said his fellow priests have agonized over how to reconcile the church's teachings on forgiveness with the U.S. Catholic bishops' zero-tolerance policy to punish those found to be abusive.

A fund to help accused priests is "an outreach to attempt to solve that problem," said Humitz, who also is pastor of St. Daniel's Church in Clarkston. "You don't excuse what was done, but you have respect for the dignity of the person."

The Rev. Robert Silva, president of the National Federation of Priests' Councils, said he has questions about Opus Bono Sacerdotii's financial backers and wished they'd consult with his organization, which provides resources to priests in two-thirds of the country's Catholic dioceses.

"I need to know more about who they are, what they're doing, why they're doing it. I have too much respect and too much concern for the dignity of the victims to simply make a comment about it," Silva said. "But if a priest who is unable to get any legal defense is getting help, then God bless them."

Contact ALEXA CAPELOTO at 586-469-9117 or capeloto@freepress.com or PATRICIA MONTEMURRI at 313-223-4538 or montemurri@freepress.com.

_________________________
It is better to be Dragon Master than Dragon Slayer. Some Dragons are meant to be mastered, others meant to be slain. Odin, Great Spirit, God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference. "May the Valar guide and bless you on your path under the sky"

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#85042 - 09/25/02 04:45 PM Re: Group raises funds to help some priests accused in sex cases
Chey-Wy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/01/02
Posts: 241
Loc: Cheyenne, WY

Orodo,

I read this and became outraged, especially since I have been trying to get the Presbyterian Church to take responsibility for my assault. I look at my weekly therapy bills, monthly Psychitrist bills, and monthly anti-D bills and think "why can't I get help". I currently am on a Cobra plan from my past employer ( I was let go two days before I had a nerveous breakdown) THe Cobra plan covers my health insurance but that expires in February and because I had a breakdown (caused by a flashback) because of the rape I am unable to get health insurance. But do you see anyone forming an organization to help me with my expenses. F*** NO. What I do get is a response from the church " It happened 19 years ago ... Deal with it"

While I would never wish a rape on anyone, I do agree with the previous post. Maybe when the people who are sending contrubitions to help these perps have a member of their family raped, then they will wake up. But then again, maybe not. I look at my own parents who told me " If you do anything I would be so embarased that I would never be able to set foot in that church again." ..... and " It happened .... the perp is dead ..... get over it" and see that some people will never understand. I told a friend the other day ... the only person that can understand the pain that we are going through is to have experienced it themselves. That is a pretty high price to pay for membership.

Thanks others for all your support. That is the only thing that keeps me going.

John

_________________________
From the Song MOUNTAINS by Lonestar.

Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains,
So we could learn how to climb

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#85043 - 09/26/02 10:00 PM Re: Group raises funds to help some priests accused in sex cases
The Dean Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 07/15/02
Posts: 2080
Loc: Milwaukee, WI
I believe that we survivors have not made our voice heard enough. It is really frightening to break the silence, even if the perp is dead. Still, I think that those of us who can write out the effects of the abuse on our lives should do so.

When it comes to the discussions I hear as a priest, until I reveal myself as a survivor, here is what is so often said: "My God, some kid gets his butt touched by a priest and it is abuse--he gets it touched repeatedly by coaches and teammates and it is fine." Or "I can't see how some kid having a priest put his hands down his pants one time makes a wreck out of himn for the rest of his life."

We are the ones who can dispell those idiocies. I very much doubt that anyone abuses or exploits only one child. But, even one child is one who can have such a wretched feeling of betrayal that he trusts no one. And as many of us know, it does realy cruddy things to our sexuality.

I think you are on to something important Chey. There needs to be a fund to help victims immediately. We can't wait until there is a law suit and the courts take forever and time goes on and nothing is done to help. How can we get such a fund started and how do we get it responsibly managed. It is a need whose time has come.

Bob

_________________________
If we do not live what we believe, then we will begin to believe what we live.

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#85044 - 09/30/02 12:18 PM Re: Group raises funds to help some priests accused in sex cases
JamesMichael Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 07/24/02
Posts: 134
The whole pretentious, priest-ridden structure of the Roman Catholic Church is itself the scandal. It is instituionalized hypocrisy.


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#85045 - 09/30/02 03:29 PM Re: Group raises funds to help some priests accused in sex cases
Chey-Wy Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 09/01/02
Posts: 241
Loc: Cheyenne, WY
JamesMichael,

It is not just the Catholic Church ..... it is all churches. Mine was thePresbyterian Church USA. The only difference is that the Catholics got caught with their hands in the cookie jar .... ( or should I say with thier hands in little boys pants) . It is happening in all religeons .... the Catholics are just the ones getting all the attention. What I would love to see is the media talk about the statistics in other religeons. I have talked with ministers of other religeons and they tell me that there are cases of S A in their churches. They just are never talked about.

John

_________________________
From the Song MOUNTAINS by Lonestar.

Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains,
So we could learn how to climb

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