Clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters said Tuesday that Rhode Island's Roman Catholic bishop is not doing enough to protect children from pedophile priests even as he's taken on Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy for his stance on abortion rights.
A small group of protesters gathered outside Bishop Thomas Tobin's office in Providence two days after news broke that the bishop had asked Kennedy in 2007 not to take Holy Communion because he supports abortion rights.
"He claims that it's important that we protect the unborn. But it's equally as important to protect those who have been born and those young children who have been raped and sodomized by clerics and priests. But yet he seems to protect those clerics," said Ruth Moore, of Hull, Mass.
The group called on Tobin to publish the names of priests from the diocese who have been convicted of or admitted molesting children, or if a thorough investigation has turned up credible evidence of child molestation, even if no conviction resulted.
The diocese has said in court papers that 125 of its priests have been accused of molesting children. While many of their names are known from lawsuits and news accounts, others have never been released.
Mike Guilfoyle, a spokesman for the diocese, said some of those allegations were recanted, found to be false, or made after a priest has died, so he cannot defend himself. He said the diocese has taken extensive efforts to protect children, including taking out ads and encouraging people to come forward, as well as responding immediately to accusations of abuse and cooperating with law enforcement.
The protesters said they would like the names to be posted on the diocesan Web site, a suggestion that Guilfoyle said the diocese is open to considering.
Such a list could help parents keep their children away from molesters and help employers screen potential hires, the protesters said. Skip Shea, from Uxbridge, Mass., who was abused by a priest as a child, told of seeing his abuser working next to the children's section in a bookstore as he awaited trial for abusing children.
"There has to be some sort of safeguard to protect kids. I don't think it ends with removing them from active ministry and I don't think it ends with defrocking," he said.
Shea, who has left the Catholic church, says he doesn't understand why Tobin is targeting Kennedy.
"Everybody, including these priests, deserve Communion. Because that's the whole point of it. That's part of the point of the church. I don't think anybody should be disqualified from it," he said. "It's politics. I think the bishop's playing politics."
The Catholic Action League of Massachusetts called Tobin's action an "act of courage, fidelity and charity, intended to prevent scandal and sacrilege."
"Bishop Tobin is being a good pastor by urging Congressman Kennedy not to commit the mortal sin of receiving Communion while in a state of grave sin," said the league's executive director, C.J. Doyle.
Bill Nash of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests called on Tobin to use his authority as a spiritual figurehead to protect children.
"There are a lot of moral issues that he has to take leadership in, and the protection of children is a very important and critical area of moral leadership that he should be taking a more proactive stand with," Nash said.