Catholic Cardinals to Meet Sex Abuse Victims

By Jason Pierce | July 7, 2008 | 8:20 PM EDT

( - Three American Catholic cardinals are reportedly scheduled to meet with victims of sexual abuse by priests Wednesday, one day before the U.S. Catholic bishops meet to discuss how to handle the church's sex abuse scandal as well as future cases.

According to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), 25 sex abuse survivors are due to meet this week with Cardinals Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., William Keeler of Baltimore, Md. and Roger Mahoney of Los Angeles, Calif.

Archbishop Harry Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn., chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, will reportedly also attend.

Phone calls placed to the Archdioceses' communications offices in Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington and St. Paul-Minneapolis were not returned.

According to SNAP, the 25 people meeting with the cardinals and archbishop are planning to provide brief personal introductions, discuss the impact sexual abuse has had on their lives, and offer suggestions on how the church can help victims heal and prevent future abuse.

David Clohessy, director of SNAP, said he hopes the meeting will make the clergy realize how urgently new action is needed.

"This is the first time that a group of church leaders is meeting with a group of clerical sexual abuse victims," Clohessy said. "We hope it will be the catalyst for substantial changes in the church that will protect children and help survivors of childhood clerical sexual abuse to heal."

"We believe that our best chance of reaching the cardinals' hearts is in an intimate setting like this," said Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP. "We hope to have a very frank dialogue."

Patrick Scully, spokesman for the Catholic League, said if there is anyone who should have the ear of the cardinals, "it is the abuse victims."

"I certainly think the bishops and the cardinals could benefit from hearing from the people who were so negatively affected by this," Scully said. "I can't think of a better group to have their say than SNAP."

However, Scully said while SNAP should be listened to, not all their ideas should become church policy.

"I think just because they are the people who have the right to speak doesn't mean that everything they are saying should become policy," he said. "To enact a lot of it is dangerous."

Scully pointed to the various ideas being offered by victims' groups and lawyers, such as lifting the statute of limitations on sexual abuse cases involving priests and lifting confidentiality agreements of any cases if they were made with the church, should simply be ignored.

"The church should not be above the law, but is not below the law," he said. "The letter of the law should apply across the board.

"I think it is very positive that the abuse victims have their say, but some of the things they are saying - I don't think we should necessarily go ahead with because a lot of it is not only unconstitutional, but also patently unfair," Scully said.

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