Local Bishop Addresses Sex Abuse Scandal At Mass

By JOE MILICIA, Associated Press Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) - Bishop Anthony Pilla urged the Roman Catholic church to be active in responding to victims of abuse within the church and more effective in dealing with those responsible for abusing minors.

The bishop of the Cleveland Diocese said he is "saddened and embarrassed by the sickness of some among us, and the sinful recklessness of some others."

His comments were applauded by hundreds of Cleveland area priests who braved a snowstorm Tuesday night to renew their vows at the annual Chrism Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist downtown.

Pilla warned priests and hundreds of others in attendance that the church faces an enormous challenge that will not get easier.

The Cleveland Diocese is forming a committee to evaluate the handling of child sex abuse cases. The committee will be led by William Denihan, a former head of Cuyahoga County's Department of Children and Family Services, and will report its findings in six weeks.

"I think it's something the church has to do. I'm also excited because it's a cleansing," said Kathe Durbin, 48, of Akron. She said she was moved by Pilla's speech.

Nationwide, the church has struggled with sexual abuse scandals since January, after disclosure that a Boston-area priest suspected of abuse was moved from parish to parish.

Throughout Ohio, Roman Catholics are looking for answers to scandals that have wracked the church.

"It's made me stronger because I realize I'm part of a church that admits their problems and says, 'Let's do something about this,"' Durbin said.

Maria Hardman, 55, of Bedford Heights, said not all priests should be criticized.

"These ministers sacrificed their life to God and temptation is temptation. Some will fall but that does not condemn the whole," Hardman said.

In Hamilton County, where prosecutors have served the archdiocese with a subpoena seeking records of abuse allegations, Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarcyzk told his priests at a Holy Week service that not all of them will be tarnished by the few who have abused children.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has said that it will cooperate with the investigation. Pilarcyzk has called sexual misconduct repugnant, but he has defended the archdiocese's earlier decision not to report the allegations to law enforcement.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Pilarcyzk never mentioned sexual misconduct specifically at the Tuesday night service at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral. He said the good work of many priests has been overlooked in recent weeks because of the misconduct allegations.

"It's hard to be a priest," he said. "The misbehavior of some is generalized in such a way as to envelop every priest in the umbra of suspicion."

In Dayton, which is part of the 19-county Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr. said he plans to seek a grand jury subpoena for information about any previously unreported cases of suspected child sexual abuse by priests.

Heck said his office has received "one or two calls" from people reporting suspicions but no specific instances of sexual misconduct.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said he did not plan to seek any records from the Diocese of Youngstown. Phone messages were left for prosecutors and officials in dioceses in Toledo, Columbus and Steubenville.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)