Thursday, September 23, 2004

'Code of silence' Among Priests Shields Abusers


From 'Code of silence' among priests shields abusers:

"When the Rev. Lawrence Minder told his congregation last month that he had been abused by a priest 30 years ago, the Bothell priest became one of a handful of Roman Catholic priests nationwide to break an unspoken vow: Thou Shalt Not Accuse Fellow Clergy.

Though parishioners at St. Brendan Catholic Church were startled to hear that their pastor had been abused by a fellow priest, many experts believe Minder is one of hundreds of Catholic clergy who were sexually abused by priests when they were children.

Afraid of the personal and professional consequences of reporting their abuse, many keep their allegations to themselves -- even though the men who abused them are often still practicing priests dealing with children on a daily basis.

'There's this code of silence -- you don't criticize another priest. You don't tarnish the image of the church,' said the Rev. Gary Hayes, a priest in Kentucky who says he was abused by a priest when he was 15.

Hayes, 52, was one of the first priests to go public with allegations that he'd been abused by a priest. He said he has met or heard of about 50 priests who say they have been abused by priests, and he suspects there may be 'hundreds' more.

Priests who point fingers at other clergy 'don't make any friends in the church, I'll tell you that much,' said the Rev. John Bambrick, a New Jersey priest who said he was also abused by a priest when he was 15.

'I know guys who came forward, and it was disastrous. Priests shun you. It gets to be very, very messy -- I think a lot of guys don't want to get caught up in that mess.'

Bambrick said he knows of about 20 priests who have been abused by priests. He and Hayes have started a support group for priests abused by priests called Jordan's Crossing. "