FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – A victim of sexual abuse at the hands of a priest made a statement Wednesday saying the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese needs to be “open and honest” about the details surrounding Fr. Lombardi’s sexual abuse allegations.
Barbara Dorris is the Outreach Director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). She issued a written public statement to the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese saying Bishop Kevin Rhoades should be “open and honest” about the details surrounding Fr. Lombardi’s sexual abuse allegations.
“The Bishop has not been completely honest with the community and with his flock. We [at SNAP] feel he should be telling them the details of what happened,” Dorris said.
Dorris says Bishop Rhoades has great power in the community. She feels if the Bishop visited Lombari’s past parishes and begged people who might be victims to speak out, it would help any child who's being abused right now to understand that the powerful people in the community want to help. Dorris said she was sexually abused as a child by a priest at her parish, which is why this issue is so important to her.
“I fear that this isn’t an isolated situation, and it terrifies me that kids are at risk. We have to do something to protect the children that are at risk right now.”
Through email correspondence, Diocese officials did not say whether they will be visiting Fr. Lombardi’s past parishes during their investigation. The Diocese has a policy of putting statements in their bulletins twice a year letting victims know they can come forward in a safe environment. A bulletin was handed out during services this past weekend. Dorris says putting a notice in the bulletin twice a year is not enough.
“We know this man has accusations. They obviously feel they’re credible because they removed him, so then you should go to every place that he worked and see if you can help anyone who’s been hurt.”
Dorris says she suspects the bulletin policy is in place to “keep the silence”. She says by allowing the silence, people are allowing predators to continuously harm children, and that’s the worst thing people can do.
“If no victims come forward they don’t have to deal with this issue. If they wanted this to stop and they wanted to find out the truth about Father Lombardi, then visiting the parishes and making announcements, or putting something in the Diocesan newspaper, or have every parish priest talk about it this Sunday from the bulletin would be a good way to start the discussion to help victims understand it wasn’t their fault and they do need to come forward.”
Currently, there are no charges against Fr. Lombardi. Dorris says knowing the details about the allegations is about helping and protecting the victims. She says creating an open discussion in the church might conjure some information that could prove Fr. Lombardi’s innocence or guilt.
“We don’t know where the crimes happened. We don’t know how old the victim was. We don’t know when the crimes happened. We don’t know what happened. So it’s very hard to go to your kids and talk to them,” Dorris said. “It would be much easier if we knew what was happening. It would be easier to say, ‘Okay, I have a piece of information to maybe prove him innocent, or maybe that would prove his guilt,’ but we would then have the truth.”
Dorris and members of SNAP encourage anyone who has seen, suspected, or been a victim of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church to contact local law enforcement, call a therapist, or call a support group like SNAP. She says being open and honest would be a big step.
“In this case, after 10 years of this scandal stirring within the church once again, they’re [Catholic Church] failing to be open and honest. It’s the promise they made in Dallas in 2002—openness, transparency, honesty. But this isn’t an honest situation.”
The Diocese says they are doing everything they can while protecting the privacy of the victim.
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