Monday, November 11, 2002

Several weeks ago, a local priest, now deceased was accused of sexual abuse by a woman, who said that the monsignor groped her repeatedly, starting when she was around ten or eleven.

Yesterday, the Diocese released a statement saying that her accusations were "credible" and the Bishop appeared at the parish in the little town just east of here where the man had been pastor for years.

Bennett said she has recently been in contact with other women who told her they too were abused by Ehrman as students at St. John the Baptist School."I really didn't know if there was anyone else," she said. "It was just not something at that time that you talked about." Bishop John D'Arcy left Sunday for the annual meeting of the United States Conference on Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C., and could not be reached for comment. D'Arcy spent Saturday and Sunday in New Haven, attending three parish Masses at St. John the Baptist, the Catholic Communications office said.D'Arcy acknowledged the credibility of Bennett's claims during those Masses and expressed his and the diocese's sorrow, the office said. He also asked anyone else with allegations of abuse against Ehrman to contact diocesan Vicar General Father Robert Schulte.D'Arcy has been outspoken in regard to combating sexual abuse by Catholic priests. As an auxiliary bishop in Boston in 1984, he wrote a letter expressing his concerns about then-priest John Geoghan. Geoghan has since been defrocked and is accused of molesting more than 130 boys over 30 years.

Here's my own moment of connection with the story. A little over a week ago, I gave a couple of workshops on "How to Cope With Scandal In the Church" at my parish. At the end of one of the sessions, I asked for questions or further comments, and one older woman spoke up. She was, as it turns out, a niece of this accused priest, and she was accompanied to the session by her sister, another niece.

She told her story, telling the group how shocked, naturally enough, the family was by these accusations, and implying their contempt for this woman coming forth with the accusations. Her view, naturally enough, was that it was unthinkable. It was, to say the least, awkward and I couldn't manage more than sympathy for the family's pain and a hope that truth would be served.

Looks like it has been.

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