The Boston Globe | Abuse in the Catholic Church


Group seeks tribute to remember clergy abuse victims

But some advocates disagree with idea

By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff, 8/21/2003

A small group of victims of clergy sexual abuse and their relatives called on the Archdiocese of Boston yesterday to establish a physical ''tribute'' or ''memorial'' to honor victims and commemorate the scandal.

The idea of a statue, plaque, or other permanent physical reminder of the clergy abuse scandal has met with mixed feelings among advocates for survivors of abuse and the victims themselves. But Maryetta Dussourd, a Jamaica Plain mother whose three children were molested by the Rev. John Geoghan, said yesterday that victims need more than just money and promises from church officials that the abuse will not continue.

''It is time for the church to step up and create something tangible for the survivors of loved ones,'' said Dussourd, who was one of about six victims and advocates who held a news conference on Boston Common yesterday.

''Never has the church done more than pay money and push the crimes back into silence,'' said Dussourd, who also had four cousins molested by Geoghan and who was one of 86 victims and family members involved in a $10 million settlement with the archdiocese last year.

The Rev. Christopher Coyne, the spokesman for the archdiocese, was unavailable for comment yesterday. Mitchell Garabedian, the Boston lawyer who represented the Geoghan victims, said the idea would ''honor the victims and serve as a reminder that such an avoidable tragedy should never happen again.''

One leader of a victims' advocacy group, however, said that many victims believe that pushing the archdiocese for a physical memorial is less important than seeking changes in the church itself, such as creating stricter rules governing the handling of abuse claims.

''Different survivors and their families have different ideas about what would help remind the community that this sort of thing should never happen again,'' said Ann Hagan Webb, co-coordinator of the New England Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

''I have respect for people who don't want the community to forget, but this is certainly not one of the things that needs to happen to fix the problem,'' she said. ''And I would hesitate to do anything that would make the church think that this is a way to fix things.''

Dussourd and Alexa MacPherson, a 28-year-old Dorchester woman who said she was molested by a priest for several years beginning when she was a toddler, said they envisioned the tribute having a child-like theme -- perhaps a statue of a child. MacPherson said such a tribute, created in honor of all victims, would help survivors to heal..

''They put up memorials to war victims, well, we're in a war too,'' she said.

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