More than 150 Catholics from the St. Cloud Diocese gathered Friday night in St. Cloud for a listening session regarding clergy sex abuse. Some at the meeting were angry at how church leaders have handled the situation, and say they don't trust the church to take care of problems within its ranks. Bishop John Kinney says he'll share what he heard at the session with his fellow bishops at a national meeting coming up in Dallas.
The listening session lasted over three hours and was full of strong emotions. Angry voices could be heard through the meeting's closed doors, as some parishioners stood up and shared their anger and frustration with church leaders. The listening session was closed to the media, but Bishop John Kinney spoke to the press afterward. He said of the three listening sessions held in the 16-county diocese, this was by far the most emotional.
"The first two were very strong with much passion. But there's much more intensity and passion in this one. A lot of anger, a lot of resentment. A number of victims...came forward and spoke of their anger or their sadness, or their feelings that perhaps they had not been treated in the way that they thought they should have been by the diocese," Kinney said.
Several parishioners stormed out of the church red-faced and teary-eyed after the meeting. Marti Oakley wasn't happy with the assurances church leaders gave the audience that they'd do what they could to address sex abuse in the church.
"My friends are victims - I know of several victims. I've seen what's happened to these people, and absolutely no help from this church," Oakley said. "They got caught. That's the only reason this is being discussed, they got caught - they got busted."
Oakley says she hopes the recent scandals in the Catholic Church encourage more worshippers to step up and take a stronger role in how their church operates.
Mary Ann Valley from St. Cloud said she thought the listening session went well, for the first two hours. Then, Valley says, tempers flared, and she says the anger expressed toward Bishop Kinney went too far. Still, Valley hopes one result of the listening sessions will be an effort to teach people within the church about sex abuse.
"Educate the people, but also educate the seminarians...address the sexuality issues in seminary a lot more than they are," Valley said.
Bishop Kinney thinks one result of the listening sessions could be more outside monitoring of sex abuse cases in the church. But he also said the St. Cloud Diocese would favor a change to Minnesota's statute of limitations on sexual abuse. Currently, the statute runs out on cases when a victim turns 25.
"I certainly would be favorable to some form of a change of legislation, because I think very often these things come back years and years and years later," said Kinney. "I think the church needs to do everything it can to stand on the side of victims, and certainly that would be one way of addressing the issue. Standing on the side of victims that is, and not lawyers."
Some victims' advocates and attorneys for victims say the church hides behind the statute of limitations, to avoid civil and criminal trials over decades-old sex abuse cases.
The St. Cloud Diocese will host its final clergy abuse listening session June 7 in Princeton. Bishop Kinney will head to Dallas in mid-June for the National Bishops' meeting, where U.S. bishops are expected to discuss changes to their policies regarding clergy abuse.More Information