Local director of victims’ advocacy group says she’s not excited about the pope’s announcement.
Mary Dispenza, of Bellevue, was abused by a priest at her East Los Angeles Catholic school when she was 7 years old. Her abuser molested dozens of girls between 1948 and 1980 but wasn’t barred from public ministry until 2002.
As an abuse survivor and the Northwest director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), the announcement of Pope Francis’ initiative on Wednesday brought mixed feelings, she said.
“The church has started groups like this before, but nothing really significant has happened,” Dispenza said Wednesday evening. “It’s difficult for me to get really excited about it.”
Dispenza said the decision marks a shift in the Catholic Church in acknowledging abuses and holding leaders accountable, though no bishop has yet been removed from his position because of his involvement in failing to report abuse or protecting a priest.
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“Until an action is taken where a bishop is removed for protecting, sheltering or harboring these predator priests, they are just words,” she said.
Last month, a Sedro-Woolley woman reached a $1.2 million settlement with church officials after she sued the Seattle Archdiocese over abuse she says she suffered as a child. The 63-year-old woman said she was sexually abused by Father Michael Cody when he served as a pastor of the St. Charles Parish in Burlington, Skagit County, at a time when church officials knew he had already molested other girls.
The Seattle Archdiocese agreed in June 2014 to pay more than $12 million to 30 men who were sexually abused when they were students at either Seattle’s O’Dea High School or Briscoe Memorial School in Kent from the 1950s to the early 1980s.