Media drawn to church's abuse-prevention program

OAKLAND, CA: The Diocese of Oakland became the focus of unexpected national media attention last week when it established its Ministry for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse.

OAKLAND, CA: The Diocese of Oakland became the focus of unexpected national media attention last week when it established its Ministry for Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse.

The diocese has been working on the issue of clergy sexual abuse for three years. But the establishment of the ministry comes just as the Catholic Church is engulfed in controversy surrounding alleged cover-ups of abuse.

"I felt we were a bit slow in responding to this,

said Sister Barbara Flannery, chancellor of the diocese. "I don't see it as an early lead."

The diocese began reviewing church files for abuse cases three years ago, and has been working with the victims as well as the police. Two years ago, Oakland Bishop John Cummings publicly apologized to victims of clergy abuse.

Last week, an outdoor ceremony was held to inaugurate the ministry and the campaign, called "No More Secrets.

A help line run by victims has been established, along with a new website.

A retreat is planned for June, and will be run by a priest who was himself abused by a member of the clergy.

Sister Flannery is handling all media calls, and has been interviewed by NPR, the San Jose Mercury News, and other major local and national news outlets.

"Who knew there would be this kind of response?

she said.

Several PR agencies and corporations have called to offer help with communications and other services. Sister Flannery said an independent committee will be reviewing the offers, and deciding what will best suit the ministry's needs at this time.

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