Priest: Church must help abuse victims
The Sacramento Diocese and a local Catholic priest say the subject of priests sexually abusing children and teens is not being ignored.
Father James Murphy of the diocese said church employees, clergy and volunteers have attended workshops in recent years “to make them sensitive to the issue and to make them aware of the diocese services.”
According to Rev. Simon Twomey of St. Patrick’s Church in Grass Valley, “if anyone comes in for counseling” for alleged sexual abuse by a person connected to the church, “I’m on the phone to the diocese right away and then I’m out unless the person wants me involved. We’re the same as public schools” in that suspected child abuse has to be dealt with and reported to authorities. Twomey said the church also has a counselor who can deal with sex abuse victims.
On the heels of a massive public relations disaster suffered by the church in recent years over priests molesting children, “we’re trying to show we’re concerned,” Twomey said. “If someone is abused, we have to help them,” morally and by law.
“It’s God’s house, but people do evil acts within the house of God,” Twomey said. “The hardest part is building trust” with a person who has suffered sex abuse from a person affiliated with the church.
Learning of child sex abuse within the church can be tricky itself, Twomey said, because victims feel “a lot of guilt and they feel dirty,” making it hard for them to come forth.
When someone does come forward, “confidentiality is very important,” Father Twomey said. If they do so at confession, “I would have to ask your permission to tell the authorities” or go against church doctrine. “I would ask you to come in and talk,” and thereby make the situation subject to law.
Father Twomey said he knows of no sexual abuse cases involving Nevada County Catholic churches at this time.
Father Murphy of the Sacramento diocese said there are “probably cases pending” against his diocese, which covers 20 Northern California counties and 510,000 Catholics. But Murphy didn’t know how many, and said diocesan lawyers probably wouldn’t let him discuss them.
If you or a loved one has been sexually molested or abused in any way by a volunteer, staff or clergy member of the Catholic Church, the Sacramento Catholic Diocese wants you to call its Misconduct Hotline. The number is:
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