Sunday, November 24, 2002

Victims' groups announce that they'll put their energy into encouraging civil authorities to get tough.

Standing in a parking lot across from St. John the Evangelist Church in Wellesley, the advocates called on Governor-elect Mitt Romney, Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, and other state officials to make resolving the church sex abuse turmoil a political priority.

Representing an array of victim support groups, the advocates said they intend to lobby legislators and district attorneys by letters, phone calls, and, if need be, demonstrations outside their offices or at political fund-raisers starting next month.

They demanded prosecutors show ''greater diligence'' in pursuing offenders, and urged lawmakers to repeal statute-of- limitations laws for reporting abuse. They also called for legal reforms that would jail those who do not report sexual abusers. A recently enacted state law calls for a $1,000 fine for those who do not report accusers.

Baier said victim advocacy groups would continue to picket the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, where Law leads Mass on Sundays, but that about ''80 percent'' of the coalition's efforts would be directed toward legal reforms.

About a dozen advocates, including members of Speak Truth to Power, Coalition of Catholics and Survivors, Linkup, and Voice of the Faithful, stood alongside Baier and Gallagher as they spoke to reporters yesterday. Several held signs bearing large photographs of children who had allegedly been abused.

'This is me at my First Communion,'' said Susan Renehan, pointing to the photo she held of a smiling 7-year-old in a white dress. ''It was taken about 100 feet away from where I was sexually abused by a priest in New Jersey.''

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