Victims group says OMalley must
by Kathleen Durand, Fall River Herald News
August 7, 2003
A spokesman for the Survivors Network for Those Abused by
Priests said it hopes Boston Archbishop Sean P. OMalley
will be proactive in helping victims of sexual abuse.
While the group said it wants OMalley to succeed in
his new post, they also feel for that to happen he has go
above and beyond what others have done in the past.
"It seems that the approach of most bishops is to sit
back and wait for victims to call. What we really need is
a shepherd who is willing to go out looking for his lost sheep,"
SNAP leaders said.
SNAP sent a letter to OMalley, who was installed as
archbishop on July 30, suggesting that he could reach out
to possible victims of the Rev. Donald J. Bowen by putting
notices in the bulletins of churches in the Fall River Diocese
where Bowen served.
Although the Fall River Diocese is not part of the Boston
Archdiocese and OMalley has no authority over it, Phil
Saviano, a spokesman for SNAP, said it wants OMalley
to make arrangements with Fall River Bishop George W. Coleman
to have the notices put in the bulletins, particularly at
churches where Bowen was assigned.
Bowen was indicted last October on charges of indecent sexual
assault and battery on a child under 14 and unnatural and
lascivious acts on a child under 16.
According to Bristol County Assistant District Attorney Walter
Shea, Bowen had a seven-year sexual relationship with a girl
at St. Marys Parish, Norton, from the time she was 9
until she was 16. The alleged crimes occurred some 30 years
ago. Bowen pleaded not guilty to the charges and is currently
believed to be staying with a friend in Massachusetts while
"This is a case that goes back to OMalleys
time," said Saviano, referring to the fact that OMalley
was bishop of Fall River for 10 years. He left Fall River
last October to become bishop of Palm Beach. Bowens
alleged victim settled a lawsuit against the diocese seven
months before OMalley became bishop of Fall River. She
reportedly met with OMalley in 1994 and was satisfied
with the way Bowen was being monitored in Bolivia.
Bowen left the Fall River Diocese in 1973 to become a missionary
in Bolivia with the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle.
But Saviano said Bowen was still a priest of the Fall River
Diocese while he was in Bolivia and OMalley was his
SNAP wants the notices in the church bulletins to encourage
any other Bowen victims to come forward. It also wants OMalley
to insist that the Missionary Society of St. James the Apostle
"reach out to the faithful in the 25 remote Bolivian
villages where Father Bowen worked, alerting them to the accusations
against Bowen and again encouraging other possible victims
to come forward."
Saviano, who said OMalley probably received the letter
Wednesday, said it was also a way for SNAP to make initial
contact with OMalley.
During the homily at his installation Mass last week, OMalley
apologized for the way the church mishandled the sexual abuse
scandal in the Boston Archdiocese, asked the victims and their
families for forgiveness and assured them the church is working
to create a safe environment for young people.
"If he wants to assist the victims, he has to find out
who they are," Saviano said. "Child molesters tend
to have more than one victim."
Saviano said SNAP is hopeful that OMalley will demonstrate
that he meant what he said in the homily and is proactive
in assisting victims.
The states statute of limitations did not apply in
Bowens case because Bowen left Massachusetts. Unlike
some other priests who have been accused of molesting children
years ago, Saviano said Bowen is someone who can be prosecuted
and, "It can only help the prosecutor and everyone if
other victims come forward."
The letter from SNAP was signed by Ann Hagan Webb and Bill
Gately, New England coordinators.
They stated that they were disturbed to learn that after
being removed from service in the Fall River Diocese in 1973,
Bowen spent 30 years "in a Third World country with complete
access to children."
Webb and Gately said it appears that the responsibility for
keeping Bowen away from children "got watered down at
every step along the supervision ladder, until, finally, no
information about his sexual abuse and rape of a minor reached
his supervisor in Bolivia. This is simply unacceptable."
John Kearns, a spokesman for the Fall River Diocese, said
OMalley was told by Bowens supervisors in Bolivia
that Bowen would have no contact with children.
Regardless of what was said in a 1994 conversation between
OMalley and the Rev. Gabriel Troy, Bowens supervisor,
the SNAP leaders stated, "the more important issue is:
what will be done now?"
Webb and Gately asked, "How could one conversation about
a child-molesting priest possibly assure you about a matter
of such grave importance?"
They said they want OMalley to succeed at his new mission
in Boston and they want to give him every benefit of the doubt.
"We also want you to treat sexual abuse with the seriousness
it warrants," they stated. "But your handling of
this case is very troublesome to us. A genuine and thorough
effort to contact and help potential Bowen victims here in
Massachusetts and in South America will go a long way in convincing
us that you are sincere."
Kathleen Durand may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
©The Herald News 2003