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Bishops Rescind Invitation to Advocate

June 08, 2002|From Associated Press

Roman Catholic bishops on Friday revoked their invitation to a leading advocate for victims of clerical sexual abuse to address their convention, saying a lawsuit he joined against them created a legal barrier to discussion.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said the lawsuit filed in Minnesota makes it impossible for them to hear from David Clohessy, who is the national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Clohessy, members of the network and other victims also had been scheduled to meet privately with three cardinals on the eve of next week's conference and address a closed session of the bishops' panel devising a national policy on disciplining abusive clergy. Because of the lawsuit, the network's members cannot participate in those discussions, which will be held as planned, the bishops' conference said.

Clohessy said he was "stunned" by the bishops' action.

Plans for the meetings had been finalized late Thursday, the same day Clohessy's group filed the class-action lawsuit against the bishops' conference and several dioceses. The suit seeks to void confidentiality agreements in settlements with victims.

Bishop Wilton Gregory, the conference president, said he had been working with the group for more than a month to arrange for its participation in the Dallas convention and was upset that his efforts were "met with a lawsuit."

Two of the dioceses named as defendants--the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo.--were led by members of the committee who were rewriting the bishops' policy on responding to molestation claims.

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