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Published: Tuesday, 12/3/2002

Victims' group asks communications chief to resign over `bomb' remark

BLADE STAFF WRITER

A national victims' advocacy group yesterday called for the resignation of the Toledo diocese's director of communications for remarks it called “extremely dangerous and insensitive” toward the group's founder, Barbara Blaine.

David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the Rev. Thomas Quinn should step down or be removed after telling a reporter, when asked for a comment before Ms. Blaine's speech in Toledo in September, “Where do we place the bombs? And you can quote me on that.”

Father Quinn apologized last night for what he called an “inappropriate” remark.

“The Diocese of Toledo takes the issue of sexual abuse very seriously and is genuinely saddened by all instances of sexual abuse of minors,” he said in a statement. “I want to make it clear that these remarks, which were made under very difficult circumstances, did not then nor do they now reflect the feelings of the diocese on the subject of sexual abuse or on the SNAP group.”

The Rev. Michael Billian, chancellor, said yesterday that “the diocese appreciates the role SNAP plays in the healing process for victims of sexual abuse.”

Father Quinn, 68, has been director of communications since July, 1999. He worked as a real-estate agent and department store manager before entering the priesthood in 1985 at age 51.

Ms. Blaine, 47, was out of the country yesterday. A Toledo native and an abuse victim, she said she founded SNAP in 1989 after Toledo church leaders failed to respond to her requests to remove the accused priest, Chet Warren, from ministry. He has since been defrocked.

She is scheduled to receive a Woman of the Year Award from Ms. magazine on Monday.

Claudia Vercellotti, Toledo SNAP coordinator, said last night that “as Christians, we accept Father Quinn's apology, but the damage is done.” She said many victims of clerical sexual abuse are already fearful of stepping forward and that the priest's remarks may intimidate them into remaining silent.

“Our asking for Father Quinn to step down is not punitive. It is to create an environment conducive to healing,” she said.

SNAP has more than 4,400 members in a dozen chapters.



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