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Paynesville Press - May 8, 2002

Diocese plans series of four listening sessions

By Michael Jacobson

The Diocese of St. Cloud will conduct four listening sessions concerning clergy sexual misconduct and how the church deals with it in late May and early June.

The diocese has scheduled the sessions for Tuesday, May 21, at St. Ann Parish Center in Wadena; Thursday, May 23, at St. Mary Parish's Great Hall in Alexandria; Friday, May 31, at the St. Augustine Parish cafeteria in St. Cloud; and Friday, June 7, at St. Edward Parish in Princeton. Each session will begin at 7 p.m., with Bishop John Kinney participating.

The sessions are in response to concerns in the wake of the clergy abuse cases and allegations that have surfaced nationally and internationally since January. Bishop Kinney encourages anyone who has something to say on the subject to participate in one of the four listening sessions.

"We want to extend an open invitation to whoever wants to come," said Bishop Kinney, who senses that people need "to talk about this issue out in the open."

Bringing the issue to the table in such an open forum is an essential step to effect justice, reconciliation, and healing for all affected by the scandal, he said.

Bishop Kinney also emphasized that the church needs to be firm on this issue. "The church has to be very loud and clear about where it stands," he explained. "The body of Christ is not going to stand for waffling when it comes to protecting infants, children, and other vulnerable people."

Chris Codden, chair of the committee coordinating the listening sessions, will act as facilitator at all four sessions. The diocese's intent, she said, is to create a forum where victims of abuse feel free to come forward and also where members of the general public feel like making comments. "We need to get this out in the open," she said.

The diocese will have trained victim advocates available at each session, and people who want to share the names of victims or abusers will have an opportunity to do so confidentially with an advocate after the session.

Because of concerns for a safe, open environment in which people can feel comfortable sharing their feelings and concerns, media will not be allowed at the sessions. Bishop Kinney will hold a news conference immediately following each of the sessions.

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