8 Dec 2008

Abuse victims ask parishioners to withhold donations

Newsday.com Long Island, NY
December 8, 2008

by Laura Rivera

Members of a new Catholic reform group Sunday urged Long Island parishioners to withhold donations for what they said was the mishandling of clergy sex abuse cases.

About a dozen people supporting Project Send the Bishops a Message demonstrated outside St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre after morning Mass, asking parishioners to contribute to children's charities instead of their local parish on Dec. 21.

The group's national director, Frank Douglas, said the selective boycott would convey to church leaders that they need to do more to protect children from sexual abuse and to make their finances more transparent.

"The real message to Catholics is to try to make them aware that they have the power to change the church through the power of their purse," said Douglas, based in Tucson, Ariz. Douglas called on U.S. dioceses to disclose income and balance sheet statements and assets, including real estate, cash, and stocks and bonds.

Diocese of Rockville Centre spokesman Sean Dolan said such action would starve parishes of much-needed funds for social services as well as their own maintenance.

"If these people really want to send a message, withholding collections is probably one of the least effective ways of doing it because you're hurting your pastor and you're hurting your parish, especially in this season of giving," Dolan said.

Outside the cathedral Sunday, Tim Walsh, 45, held up photos of himself as an altar boy at St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station, where he says he was sexually abused by a priest.

"When they come out of the Mass, they see us as adults," said Walsh, of Huntington, one of four survivors in attendance. "Maybe we should show us as children to show who was the person who was abused. And it wasn't us. It was a child."

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