Catholics express anger, relief after release of abuse reports

BOSTON - Roman Catholics confronted the problem of clergy sex abuse from pulpits, at protests and in parishes yesterday, two days after the release of reports outlining the scandal's scope and the church's failure to protect children.

While some victims took to the streets in protest, claiming the church hierarchy was trying to whitewash the problem, others said they felt relieved the church is coming to terms with the issue.

"I don't want it to go away," said Maurice Smith, 52, a Boston resident who attended Mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. "The more we address it, the more we can feel it's not going to be swept under a rug or covered up."

Two church-sanctioned studies were released Friday by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by church bishops. One, compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found there had been more than 10,000 abuse claims against nearly 4,400 priests from 1950 to 2002.

Some Catholics feared the church might not have given a full account of the abuse claims.

"It's just staggering the numbers of people who were abused," said Joan Smola, 59, of Hadley, Mass., who attended a vigil for victims in Springfield. "Do we know whether all of the dioceses were honest in what they put in their reports?"

About 100 victims and their supporters marched yesterday in Boston from Holy Cross to the Statehouse to urge Gov. Mitt Romney to appoint a clergy abuse task force to oversee the church in Massachusetts, where the sex abuse scandal erupted with reports in the Boston archdiocese.

Romney spokeswoman Shawn Feddeman said yesterday that the Republican governor would consider the group's request, but wouldn't elaborate.

Along with the John Jay College report, the second report examines the causes of the molestation crisis, putting much of the blame on American bishops for not cracking down on errant priests.

In the Baltimore area, many priests told their parishioners last week that the national report would be released in the coming days, said Sean Caine, a spokesman for the Archdiocese Of Baltimore.

To help prepare worshipers for the report, Cardinal William H. Keeler published a letter in the Catholic Review on Feb. 19. "The total number of cases will likely cause anguish among the faithful and will be a deeply painful reminder for those who suffered, and may still be suffering, from abuse," Keeler wrote.

"However, the study represents a necessary and important step. Detailing the national scope of abuse - no matter how abhorrent - is necessary to rebuild the trust of our brothers and sisters. The children of our church cannot and will not be put at risk again."

Sun staff writer Tom Pelton contributed to this article.