faces faithful at public forum
By Reid Forgrave - The Cincinnati Enquirer
March 11, 2004
DAYTON, Ohio - Standing before a crowd of 400 people - most
Catholic, many angry, all looking for answers - Cincinnati
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk on Wednesday reviewed the priest
sexual abuse scandal from a bishop's viewpoint and answered
questions from the faithful.
Again and again, he said he was sorry. He listened to victims
of sexual abuse berate him and the church for not doing enough
to stop abusive priests. He listened as some Catholics said
they were embarrassed about their church. He nodded as others
said they steadfastly supported the Catholic church and its
And he answered their questions succinctly - with general
expressions of contrition about the entire scandal, but without
addressing any specific cases.
In the opening lecture for a three-semester-long series at
the University of Dayton addressing the abuse scandal, Pilarczyk,
the archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati since 1982,
first reviewed the history of the scandal from a bishop's
He divided the scandal into three parts: pre-1985, when bishops
didn't know how to deal with pedophile priests and society
as a whole didn't know how to deal with sexual abuse; 1985-2002,
when reports of abuse were brought to the church, the church
faced its first litigation and society became more knowledgeable
about sexual abuse; and post-2002, when the scandal came into
public view and the church began to face the sins of its past.
"I know I am sorry about what happened in this archdiocese,
and I will carry that sorrow to my grave," Pilarczyk
said in his speech, titled "What Were Bishops Thinking?"
Pilarczyk pleaded no contest in November on behalf of the
Archdiocese of Cincinnati to failure to report a crime in
connection with abuse more than 20 years ago.
According to the archdiocese, 49 of the 833 priests who served
in the archdiocese during the past 53 years have been accused
During a half-hour question-and-answer session, Pilarczyk
responded to often-angry questions with few words, avoiding
specific cases of sexual abuse but offering general contrition
and sorrow for the sexual abuse of minors.
At the end of his speech, Pilarczyk compared himself to a
ship's captain carrying passengers during a storm in uncharted
"We're not passengers in your ship," said Mary
Fitzpatrick, a member of Holy Family Church in Price Hill.
"We're crew members, too, and we could be of great help."
Bill Stueve of Dayton asked about the $3 million compensation
fund for clergy abuse victims who agree not to sue the church.
He questioned the morality of asking victims to give up their
"I believe it is moral because we're giving them a choice
and no one has to do that," Pilarczyk responded.
One leader of a group of sexual abuse victims said she wasn't
satisfied with what the archbishop said Wednesday.
"He basically read off a piece of paper that sounded
like it was written by his attorney," said Christy Miller
of West Chester, leader of the Cincinnati chapter of the Survivors
Network of Those Abused by Priests.