- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

BOSTON (AP) — Roman Catholics confronted the problem of clergy sex abuse from pulpits, at protests and in parishes yesterday, two days after the release of reports outlining the scandal’s scope and the church’s failure.

While some victims took to the streets in protest, saying the church’s bishops were trying to whitewash the problem, others said they felt relieved the church was coming to terms with the issue.

“I don’t want it to go away,” said Maurice Smith, 52, a Boston resident who attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. “The more we address it, the more we can feel it’s not going to be swept under a rug or covered up.”

Two church-sanctioned studies were released Friday by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by church bishops. One, compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found there had been more than 10,000 abuse accusations against nearly 4,400 priests from 1950 to 2002.

“We must pray ourselves out of this wilderness,” said Monsignor Richard Sniezyk, who was installed administrator of the Springfield Diocese last month after Bishop Thomas Dupre resigned in the face of abuse charges. “We need not panic. We need to pray.”

Nancy Fitzpatrick, 44, a registered nurse who attended a service at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, called the report’s numbers “shocking.”

“But I do think the church is doing its best to address this,” she said. “Releasing these figures means they’re acknowledging how big a problem this is, and that’s a good step.”

Others feared the church might not have given a full account of the abuse accusations.

“Do we know whether all of the dioceses were honest in what they put in their reports? I’m sure there are many victims who have not come forward,” said Joan Smola, 59, of Hadley, Mass., who attended a vigil for victims in Springfield.

About 100 victims and their supporters marched yesterday in Boston from Holy Cross to the State House to urge Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, to appoint a clergy abuse task force to oversee the church in Massachusetts, where the sex-abuse scandal erupted with reports in the Boston Archdiocese.

Organizers said the church should reveal information about priests who are no longer in the ministry and live in the community, but acknowledged that there may be legal roadblocks because most accused priests were not convicted.

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