July 20, 2005

Defrocked, 30 years later

Times Herald-Record

On Sunday, Record staffer Steve Israel brought one of the area's more appalling stories to a close. His column detailed the anguish and courage of a local man who, at age 11, had been sexually abused by his parish priest and who had decided, 20 years later, that he could no longer be a partner to the Catholic Church's coverup of his and dozens of other cases of abuse by its priests. The man called Israel in 1996 and, with the promise of confidentiality, told him his story.
Israel's column Sunday emphasized the importance of that pledge of anonymity in allowing this newspaper to bring the tale of sexual abuse and coverup to the public's attention. There is no underestimating the significance of that pledge, for this newspaper and others that published similar stories of abuse of boys by priests in their areas. When social institutions that are supposed to protect and defend the innocent not only fail in that responsibility but also enlist the innocents, through cash and coercion, in a conspiracy of denial, there must be a place of trust for the victims to go to unburden themselves. Newspapers can be that place.
But reading Israel's column also brought back feelings of anger and resentment at the church for its hypocrisy in dealing with the issue and the lengths to which it went to deny or delay dealing with the abusers.
The column was prompted by the fact that the Archdiocese of New York had just released a list of priests it had defrocked. Among them was Francis Stinner, who had served as a parish priest at St. Mary's Church in Port Jervis and taught at John S. Burke Catholic High School in Goshen. Stinner was the man Israel's caller said had sexually abused him and at least a dozen other boys while serving as their priest.

Posted by kshaw at July 20, 2005 10:54 AM