The Independent Newsweekly
|Church in Crisis|
Issue Date: April 4, 2003
Papal aide meets in Rome with three U.S. sex abuse victims
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
In a personal message to three Boston-area men who say they are victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests, John Paul II vowed that he realizes the seriousness of the problem and will see that this doesnt happen again.
The message was carried March 26 by Msgr. James Green, a senior official in the Secretariat of State, who told the men the pope had also asked that Green bring messages from them to him that evening.
The three men are Gary Bergeron and Bernie McDade, who claim to have been abused by the same priest, and Joseph Bergeron, Garys father, who says he was abused as an altar boy by another priest. They came to Rome March 23 seeking a meeting with John Paul.
Green was not immediately available for comment.
Bergeron told NCR that Green opened the meeting, which took place at 6:30 p.m. at their hotel 10 minutes from the Vatican, by praying an Our Father. He then presented the popes message.
The Holy Father realizes the seriousness of this problem, and is doing all he can, Bergeron said Green told them, saying they were free to share the message with other victims. [The pope] will continue to do all he can to heal the church and to pray for the victims. He will see that this doesnt happen again.
Bergeron said Green then solicited comments.
Joseph Bergeron spoke first. The Holy Father needs to make sure that this never, ever, ever happens to another child, he said.
McDade followed. The Holy Father needs to heal the church, not just the survivors but the church itself. He needs to realize how the church in the United States is hurting.
Gary Bergeron concluded. The Holy Father needs to put a face with the problem, meaning he needs to meet with us, he said. If not me, meet with my father. If not him, then some victim he can associate with the problem. Only then will he understand the depth of the wound.
Bergeron said the session was very intense, very emotional, but that he would continue to press for a personal meeting with John Paul. The three men planned to return to Boston the morning of March 28.
John L. Allen Jr. is NCR Rome correspondent. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
National Catholic Reporter, April 4, 2003
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