- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A support group for victims of clergy sex abuse has been given the opportunity to heal through a meeting with the archbishop of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

About 25 people, including victims and family members, attended the gathering at a Wayzata library on Saturday. Archbishop John Nienstedt listened to the victims’ stories and gained perspective on the impact of abuse, the Star Tribune (http://strib.mn/1ofKav5 ) reported.

“I really didn’t think he’d be there until he actually showed up,” said a Minneapolis man who was abused as a child. “This is a group of hurting people who want some sense of healing or closure . I’m hoping things are heading in the right direction.”

The Associated Press does not generally name victims of sexual abuse.

The former director of the Minnesota chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, Bob Schwiderski, invited the archbishop to the meeting after he asked permission from members of the support group.

“I was concerned about an opportunity for survivors to confront some of the anger they had because the church did not listen to them before,” Schwiderski said.

Ground rules were laid in advance to ensure a respectful atmosphere for both the victims and the archbishop. Each participant had three minutes to speak and introductions were on a first name basis.

During the meeting, one member of the support group stressed the importance of continuing psychological care for survivors.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but I know in my case that door was closed when the civil case was over,” he said, adding the abuse he experience drove him to drugs and alcohol.

After the meeting, the state’s Catholic leader said he was thankful that so many victims shared their experiences with him.

“I have been deeply moved by the devastating stories I have heard . Their stories have been very touching and further encourage me to continue in our direction of protecting children from any abuse,” Nienstedt said.

He also said he will consider the support group members’ suggestions as the church moves forward.

___

Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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