July 31, 2005

The Clergy's Uneven Atonement

Washington Post

By Caryle Murphy
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 31, 2005; Page C01

One spring day last year, Baltimore Cardinal William H. Keeler and a dozen priests knelt before more than 100 people in a Maryland church. In an act of public atonement to victims of clerical sexual abuse, they recited the confiteor, the traditional Catholic confession of sin. For some in the audience, it was a long-awaited catharsis.

"You have no idea of the healing that came out of that for me," said Edwina Stewart of Frederick, who was sexually abused by a priest 40 years ago. She recalled breaking into tears during Keeler's prayer.

David Fortwengler never has had such a moment. The North Carolina contractor, abused in the late 1960s as an altar boy at Oxon Hill's St. Columba Catholic Church, appreciates that the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington is paying for his counseling and that an auxiliary bishop personally apologized to him. But all this has not quite closed his wound.

"It's not a matter of sitting down with a bishop for five minutes and him apologizing and [me] being able to move on -- it's more than that," Fortwengler, 48, said.

Posted by kshaw at July 31, 2005 08:43 AM