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No. 11- 5:30 PM 6/17 MP
Bishops agree to remove sex offenders from ministry

No. 10- 8:00 PM 6/16 TF/TR
Bishops urged, in a most unusual morning, to press for reforms beyond sex abuse policy

No. 9- 11:00 AM 6/14 TR
Bishops urged, in a most unusual morning, to press for reforms beyond sex abuse policy

No. 8- 9:15 AM 6/14 MP
Bishops issue ‘profound apology,’ hear victims’ stories, strong calls for reform

No. 7- 9:00 PM 6/14 TF
NCR Editor Tom Roberts assesses Dallas meeting on “News Hour”

No. 6- 1:45 PM 6/13 TF
Bishops caught in the middle as meeting opens

No. 5- 10:00 AM 6/13 TR
Serious questions for wider church loom after Dallas meeting

No. 3- 4:30 PM 6/12 TF
Arriving in Dallas, bishops greeted with more bad news

No. 2- 11:00 AM 6/12 TF
U.S. bishops, facing church division, lack authority to set U.S. course

No. 1- 4:35 PM 6/11 TF
Cardinal lashes out against U.S. media as it prepares for Dallas

Posted 9:45 A.M. CST Thursday, June 13, 2002
Number 4

For victim leader Clohessy, years of work lead to 15 minutes before the bishops

NCR Editor

David Clohessy sank into a sofa the night of June 12 in the lobby of the Adams Mark Hotel in Dallas, just a few blocks from the Fairmont hotel where the U.S. Catholic bishops were gathering for this most unusual spring meeting. He had just received a phone call telling him that he would be given a 15-minute slot the next day to address the assembled bishops.

Fifteen minutes. He said he would be up late working on what to say. He had his own tale of abuse -- four years of abuse by a priest when he was a youngster. As one of the founders and now director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), he has also heard countless, heart-wrenching stories of horrendous abuse.   

He’s exhausted, tired of this story, of the pursuit of justice within the church, of the years of pressing for the rights of victims. Earlier this day he had been among a group of survivors who met with bishops and cardinals who make up the reconstituted Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.

It would be easy for an outsider to consider this a breakthrough day -- a meeting with the bishops that representatives of both sides described during a news conference as frank and productive, and an invitation, finally, to address the assembled bishops. But Clohessy has been through such meetings and hopes before.

I first met Clohessy about 10 years ago during another bishops’ meeting, one of their November gatherings in Washington. We both recall that it must have been in the early ‘90s, long before the story exploded in Boston. I met with him and four or five other survivors in my hotel room. I had read many of their stories already. This time, however, I sat and listened. I saw them. I heard the ache in voices that for too long had been silenced. It was a startling and deeply disturbing meeting. Earlier in the day the group had met with a few bishops. They thought it was a breakthrough. Some bishops had finally actually listened. Maybe it would be the start of a new approach, they thought.

It would be unfair to say it wasn’t in some cases. Dioceses did take the matter seriously and institute policies, and better screening policies were put in place in seminaries.

But it is clear now that in, too many cases, priests were still shuffled around from assignment to assignment, victims were still being countersued. Kids were still being hurt. Clohessy and other victims kept pressing.

So now he is to get his 15 minutes. What will he say?

Even if you don’t agree with him in all details, Clohessy makes you understand his uncompromising push for zero tolerance. “I know I don’t get too nuanced about the difference between victims who are 10 or 12 or 16 … To me it’s all abuse of power.”

He said he won’t spend a whole lot of time thanking the bishops for the opportunity. He has had to fight too long and too hard for the 15 minutes.

When he went into the meeting earlier in the day, any excitement he might have felt was tempered by the long fight to get there. “I have the most skewed perspective because it feels we fought so hard just to be in that room. That influenced my gut feeling. I was just exhausted walking through that door.”

Ten years ago, he said, just as today, “there was a lot of emotion, a lot of passion.” But somehow it all just got lost. Now he’s wary. His expectations are lower. His concern for kids and keeping them out of harm’s way, especially strong now that he has two sons of his own.

Whatever he says during the meeting, he has already repeated countless times what he wants out of this meeting: A policy that would promise more assistance to victims and their families, removal of all known sex offenders from the priesthood, and removal of all bishops who knew of abuse and protected priest offenders.