Advertisement

Victims of sexual abuse by priests say while they...

By
HAROLD H. MARTIN

PHILADELPHIA -- Victims of sexual abuse by priests say while they welcomed their recent meeting with American Roman Catholic bishops, and are grateful for the bishops' statement of concern, they still feel caught in a nightmare of denial.

While the National Council of Catholic Bishops met in Washington, they dispatched Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia to Rome to negotiate with the Vatican for a quicker method of dismissing errant priests.

Advertisement

But for Ed Morris of Philadelphia, who has filed a lawsuit against the church and the priest he said sexually abused him for five years, the Bevilacqua mission means little.

'It's a distraction, a way to disassociate themselves,' he said in a recent interview.

A spokesman for Bevilacqua's office said the situation was discussed, but no action taken.

Bishops have told victims of sexual abuse by priests that policies are in place in each diocese to deal with the situation. But the Survivors Network for those Sexually Abused by Priests of Chicago, which goes under the acronym SNAP, said in a statement, 'We feel that we have been wounded even further by church officials following those very policies. The policies are not working.'

Advertisement

The policies, said Morris, 'are still failing to address what to do about the people who are victimized.'

Morris contends in his lawsuit that he was sexually abused by the Rev. Terrance Pinkowski, a Franciscan friar who was a teacher at Philadelphia's Archbishop Ryan High School and leader of a prayer group known as the Charismatics, which Morris joined in 1976, when he was 14.

Morris said he contemplated joining the priesthood and Pinkowski became not only his mentor and spiritual counselor, but a close family friend.

The abuse, he said, ended in 1981 when he started college and his own priestly ambitions came to an end after two years at the prestigious St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

But it wasn't until he was making plans to get married in 1989 that everything came to a head, he said. By then his relations with Pinkowski were strained, the priest berating him for going out on dates.

'I started to realize that I was burying a lot of feeling. A lot of things started coming to the surface,' he said.

He told his family that he wasn't inviting Pinkowski, who was still a close friend to his mother and father, to his wedding.

Advertisement

'I told them, 'Father Terrance isn't coming to my wedding because he sexually abused me.''

'I got a completely different response than I expected,' said Morris. In a devoutly Catholic family like his, he said, 'Making a charge against a priest is like kicking a crucifix. You just don't do it.'

But his parents were supportive and his father contacted the diocese, and Pinkowski's order, headquartered in Pulaski, Wis.

Morris said the provincial, or leader, of the Franciscan order promised to pay for therapy and take care of the priest, but all they did was transfer Pinkowksi.

When the bills for therapy began mounting up and he questioned them, Morris said, 'The provincial said, 'You were all screwed up before you met Father Terrance. Why should we pay for fixing you?''

When that happened, he said, he and his parents filed their lawsuit.

On the church's motion, the trial court rejected the suit on the grounds it was too old.

In December, Morris's attorneys will argue before the Pennsylvania Superior Court, in the first level of appeal, that Morris did not discover his injuries until 1988 because of 'psychological distress and coping mechanisms' that suppressed the events.

Advertisement

In addition to contesting the charges, the church has also charged Morris's parents with negligence for, among other things, failing to discover that Pinkowski was allegedly a sexual abuser.

'It's incredible the lengths they go to to protect their own reputation and to attack the family,' Morris said.

In 1985 a report written jointly by the Rev. Thomas Doyle, a canonical lawyer, Louisiana attorney Ray Mouton and the late Rev. Michael Peterson recommended to the national bishops a national policy -- one that would set up national reaction teams to reach out to victims. The policy, which would have been an admission that the problem existed, was never implemented.

'They seem to know how to form ministries for every other cause, but their own problems they treat like a numbers game -- they're going to win some and lose some,' Morris said. In a report published in 1989 it was said the church had paid at laeast $30 million to victims of parish priests.

More than anything, said Morris, 'I want reconciliation with the church.' That is a sentiment other victims of abuse have expressed.

Morris went to Washington when the bishops were meeting in early November and met with them for nearly an hour.

Advertisement

'I went to extend my hand, they gave a goodwill gesture, and now it's time to follow up,' Morris said.

'A simple phone call would be fine.'NEWLN:

Latest Headlines