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October 4, 2012

Healing Mass in Salem for child abuse victims

But critics say Libasci has disappointed clergy abuse victims

SALEM — For the first time in the Greater Salem area, the leader of New Hampshire’s Roman Catholics will offer a healing Mass tonight for victims of child abuse.

Bishop Peter Libasci is scheduled to celebrate the Mass at 6:30 p.m. at St. Joseph Church on Main Street.

The service comes 10 months after Libasci became bishop of the Diocese of Manchester and 10 years into the still-unfolding Catholic clergy abuse scandal in New Hampshire.

A critic of the church’s response to the scandal, David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Libasci has disappointed those who hoped for change. “He has been disappointing on so many levels,” Clohessy said. “Libasci is in an enviable position. He can say, ‘I don’t know these men. I wasn’t here.’ That makes it much easier for him to be forthcoming and proactive.”

SNAP continues to press the diocese to publicize the names, faces and locations of abusing priests, demonstrating as recently as three weeks ago outside diocesan offices in Manchester.

Clohessy is critical of Libasci for failing to do so. “There is virtually no difference” under Libasci than with his predecessor, Bishop John McCormack, Clohessy said.

McCormack was reviled for his role as an aide to Cardinal Bernard Law as the abuse coverup scandal first hit the Archdiocese of Boston. Later, upon becoming bishop of Manchester, he was criticized by victim advocates for not being forthcoming in releasing information about offending New Hampshire priests.

Clohessy said other dioceses have publicized information about abusive priests. “About 30 bishops in America have done this. It is a simple, inexpensive, public safety move. Of those 30 bishops, I don’t know a single one who later said, ‘Boy, I shouldn’t have done that,’’’ Clohessy said.

Healing Masses are not new. Dioceses across the country are holding them, Clohessy said. “Fundamentally, we think these kind of events are at best misplaced energy and at worst just public relations,” Clohessy said. “We think the focus needs to be on protecting kids and less on healing adults.”

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