From the New York Times
November 12, 2002
No Welcome Mat for Victims' Groups
By SAM DILLON
W ASHINGTON, Nov. 11 — Six months after the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops invited victims of sexual
abuse by priests to address their convention in Dallas, leaders of victims' and lay organizations said today that the
bishops had adopted a less conciliatory attitude at their semiannual meeting here.
Since the Dallas conference, these leaders said, the bishops have not followed up on promises of a dialog with victims of abuse.
No victims were invited to speak to the bishops here. Security agents worked to keep victims of abuse and leaders of lay groups
from getting too close to the prelates.
"There's an atmosphere of retrenchment," said the Rev. Gary R. Hayes, a Kentucky priest who as an adolescent was abused by
priests and who until Sept. 1 was president of Linkup, an association of victims of clerical abuse based in Chicago.
Father Hayes said he was being interviewed by a television crew today in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency hotel, the site of the
meeting, when Sister Mary Ann Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference, and a security agent told him to finish
"The bishops are still trying to circle the wagons, silence the victims and keep our voices from being heard," Father Hayes said.
In an interview in the lobby minutes later, Sister Walsh said she was not trying to silence anybody, only enforcing a rule adopted
by the bishops' conference: no television interviews in the hotel lobby.
"Their voices are heard all the time," she said of the groups. "It's not possible to keep people's voices from being heard — and
only a fool would try. We're simply trying to keep a sense of order here, and TV interviews in the lobby create a sense of chaos."
The rules did not entirely prevent interaction between the groups and the bishops. Steve Krueger, the executive director of Voice
of the Faithful, a nationwide network of lay Catholics, said he had been able to greet several bishops, including Bishop John
McCormack of the Diocese of Manchester and Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton of Detroit.
"We said hello to them and told them that they're in our prayers," Mr. Krueger said. "They thanked us. It was brief and cordial."
But Mr. Krueger said his group, which nine bishops have barred from meeting on church premises in dioceses from Maine to
Oregon, had been unable to arrange more extended conversations with any bishops. One reason he wanted to speak to the
bishops, he said, was to urge them to stop barring the meetings, which he called "a subtle form of excommunication." He
welcomed a phrase in the opening speech today in which Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the bishops' conference,
encouraged his fellow churchmen to "seize upon" opportunities for lay Catholics to help in church work.
"We agree that's a goal," Mr. Krueger said. "But it begs the question of what that means to the bishop and do they know what it
means to us? Collaboration means being at the same table to discuss the work, but we're not. To speak to the bishops, we have
to stand in the lobby."
Minutes later, a woman carrying a stack of leaflets approached a reporter in the lobby.
"Can you follow me outside?" she said. "I'm not allowed to talk to you here or hand you this literature or my business card inside
A hotel security guard trailed the woman and a reporter outside to the sidewalk, where she identified herself as Laura
Montgomery Rutt, spokeswoman for Soulforce, an organization critical of the Catholic church's position on homosexuality.
David Clohessy, the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the leading organization for victims, was
being interviewed by a television crew when a security agent ordered him to the edge of the lobby, increasing the distance
between him and a stream of bishops leaving for lunch.
"They're telling us we can't stand here, we can't stand there," he said. "This is like 10 years ago, when the bishops didn't want to
see us or hear us."
Peter Isely, a therapist who represents the Survivors Network in Wisconsin, echoed that comment. "At Dallas we were told, this
is just the beginning of a dialog," he said. "But since Dallas we've heard nothing from the bishops. That's what alarms me about
this conference. They started a dialog with us, and they ended it."
Copyright The New York Times Company
From the Song MOUNTAINS by Lonestar.
Yeah, the good Lord gave us mountains,
So we could learn how to climb