About 350 parishioners of St. Dominic R.C. Church again met at the Brookville Reform Church on June 10 to update what has been happening in the parish. "A lot of behind-the-scenes work is going on as the Concerned Families of St. Dominic's continue to seek to regain unity, spirituality, safety and vibrancy in our church," said the flier announcing their second meeting. Their first was on April 27 at the same venue.
The letter sent to parishioners said, "We are continuing our spiritual search for honesty, truth and integrity. To continue our healing, we need to reach out to each other, to work together as a family and discuss the tough issues, just like you do in your home. We need to be vigilant, in order to protect our children. Regardless of your opinion, it is important for your voice to be heard." They included the information that the (over 300) Concerned Families of St. Dominic Parish have created a website at www.stdomsfamilies.org where information is readily available.
At the meeting, it was apparent that they have been doing their work. They presented a video by Father Doyle, the author of Vows of Silence. Rosemary Colvin attended the meeting and said Father Doyle, a theologian and canon lawyer, is well known in areas of child abuse. "He was a representative to the Vatican in Washington DC. People kept telling him of the sexual abuse of children by priests and he told the bishops and the papal representatives and as a result became a persona non grata and started testifying for victims. He joined the US Air Force as a chaplain to give himself independence from the institutional church and now spends all of his free time testifying as an expert witness. He has been on 60 Minutes," she said.
"Father Doyle made a video just for us to use in the parish and apologized and said 'I hope I can come and meet the next time.' He said he was totally supportive of what is being done and said, 'You are the people of God; you have to take back your church.' It was uplifting. I'm looking forward to meeting him in person."
Robert Quinn, a spokesperson for the CFSD said they are asking Father Doyle for permission to copy his tape, which they will give to parishioners.
At the meeting, a former parishioner, now living in Texas, who was in this area, spoke on his alleged abuse by Father Hueneke. [He is the same priest who has been accused by John Salverson, formerly of East Norwich, who talked at the April 27 meeting. Salverson is married and lives in Philadelphia but came to talk. He speaks of his experience of sexual abuse by a priest publicly and his story is available on the Internet.]
During the meeting a second young man said Monsignor Bud Ribaudo [allegedly] "made a move on me." Later in the evening a distraught mother, in response to a comment by John DeBellis spoke of her son's [alleged] abuse by Monsignor Ribaudo.
As the evening ended, shortly after her revealing message, the forum moderator said, "You can see why we are here. We made our decisions on faith." At the end of the evening three young men alleged that they were sexually abused by priests.
The most revealing part of the June 10 meeting came after one of the organizers of the Concerned Families group, Carolyn Mangiarotti said she wanted to bring up an explosive issue and said, "There is an elephant in the living room - Monsignor Bud Ribaudo." She told of how she and her family came to St. Dominic's. She said she had been attending St. Patrick's in Huntington but wanted a Family Mass and so they found a home at St. Dominic's because of Bud, an extremely charismatic man. She said, "I was brokenhearted when he announced he was retiring for health reasons on the advice of his brother, the cardiologist. I wept, and a friend said, 'If I was a priest of 30 years I wouldn't retire now.'" Everyday the Boston Globe was uncovering more stories of the abuse by priests and the coverup and relocation of priests. The New York Times and Newsday had stories of it happening here too. Monsignor Ribaudo was named as being involved and she said, "I was indignant." She sent a note and a book to him, The Gift of Peace about Cardinal Bernadine who was falsely accused. "Now I've read the Suffolk County Grand Jury Report about Priest O, and it turned my stomach. [From the description of Priest O, it is believed that the person is Monsignor Charles A. (Bud) Ribaudo.] It is necessary to talk about what started with our troubles." She said the Diocese knew for a year before the report came out. The Grand Jury report said he abused 12 boys at the high school. [He was at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville before he came to Saint Dominic's.] In 2002 he was placed on administrative leave. She quoted the remark of Priest O's treatment professional as printed in the report. The professional said, "I would not let him (name omitted) continue in any ministry with males, the object of his affection and actions, ...they are all related to sex abuse. It can only be described as abusive behavior, the truth is it would not be wise to have him in ministry."
Ms. Mangiarotti said in January she confronted Monsignor Alesandro and she said, "He looked at the report as a pack of lies although it was a thoroughly investigated document and people testified under oath."
She said she had two key questions that needed answers. The first was, "Did Monsignor Alesandro know about Bud's weakness in his role of Vicar General and Acting Bishop?" The second question was, "Why was he sent here, to stay close to prevent a large meeting such as this? Did he allow a serial abuser to remain here?"
She said when the attorney of 30 abuse victims was asked about how many children Monsignor Bud might have abused, she was told, "As many as he could get his hands on." She was glad that her children were safe, she has three girls and Bud, [as she called him and how he wanted to be known] left the parish when her son was a newborn. She asked the listeners, "Were yours safe?"
Ms. Mangiarotti ended her comments by saying she had another issue to bring up, that Monsignor Bud has been seen in the parish. She said he was seen playing golf, in the gymnasium and at the new fields. "We need to hear about our previous pastor and need to know from the current one," she concluded.
The next speaker, John DeBellis defended Monsignor Alesandro. He said he took exception at the request to invite Monsignor Alesandro to a large meeting so that they could attack him. Mr. DeBellis said he has been in St. Dominic's for seven and a half decades and said, "I like Monsignor Alesandro. He is bright, intelligent and may seem aloof." He said his son is an international lawyer and went to St. Dominic's and later Lutheran High. He said, "My son would have come home and told me if something happened." That was when a woman called out, "you know my child is one of those abused," in a choked voice. Mr. DeBellis answered saying, "I'm awfully sorry and I understand your grief, but you can't stop me in the defense of the parish." Several people in the audience objected to what he was saying. Someone said, "The lady whose son was abused, you're calling a target."
Mr. DeBellis said in a telephone interview, "I had compassion for her. We brought up our son to tell us everything. We told him the facts of life early in life."
After Mr. DeBellis stepped down from the microphone, the distraught mother stepped up. She said she just left her son off at a psychiatric hospital and that he was one of the children abused by Monsignor Bud. "He was not raped or sodomized," she said. Still, as a result of the alleged action, he is clinically depressed, she said. She said, "I was at Mass when Monsignor Alesandro said Newsday's stories were "yellow journalism."
The mother said she spoke to Father Malcolm Burns and that he talked to her kindly and prayed with her. She said of her son, "His soul exploded, he's an atheist now." She spoke against the advice of counsel to Monsignor Alesandro whom she said, instead of offering sympathy and prayer, wanted to know how many times it had happened. She said his response was not that it was terrible. Her son was forced by law to speak to the district attorney after consulting with a professional who said that legally, she had to report the case.
She said, "I'm very angry," and added, "I agree with all you are doing. There should be no lies."
That was when the moderator said, "You can see why we are here. We made our decisions on faith."
As to the allegations that Monsignor Ribaudo has been seen in the area, Monsignor Alesandro said, "Some couple of months ago, he [Monsignor Ribaudo] mentioned he realized his presence was causing some concern to people (and not to others) and he was making sure that he was keeping away from parish properties and being sensitive to people's feelings in this matter. Since then, for several months, I haven't see Father Bud, so I don't think he's been around."
Father Vlaun, a spokesperson for the Rockville Centre Diocese said it was not a lie that Monsignor Bud was retired for his health. He said when the parish was told that, "It was chronologically true. That was before the alleged sex abuse of a minor came up, but after that he was put on administrative leave. That means he is not to present himself as a priest in public. He is not to administer the sacraments or appear in the dress of a priest - he cannot wear the collar. He did retire as a result of medical reasons. He does have a very serious heart condition. Bishop Murphy has seen his health records."
Father Vlaun was dismissive of the allegations in the Grand Jury Report. He said, "We don't know anyone who spoke to the grand jury. There were no names listed. The priests were called Priest 'A, B, C and D.'" When told that Newsday had an article with pictures of the alphabetically named priests he said, "Newsday is at risk of a major law suit because they named names."
At the first meeting on April 27, people mentioned that five of the 'alphabet priests' had been at St. Dominic's. Father Vlaun disagreed and said, "The Grand Jury Report was never brought before cross examination. They swore under oath but that doesn't make it real. People swear and they are not always telling the truth."
A parishioner commented that Monsignor Alesandro was one of the names submitted to the Vatican to be chosen Bishop. Father Vlaun said, "It is a completely confidential process that only the Bishop knows about. He types the letter and reads it when it is returned. Other information is pure gossip."
When asked if Monsignor Alesandro was assigned to St. Dominic's for damage control, Father Vlaun said, "Monsignor Alesandro was assigned by Bishop Murphy because he felt that his pastoral sense would be very beneficial to the spiritual life of the people of the parish."
Father Vlaun said, "The diocese will continue to respond in every way possible to the families and survivors to bring about healing and resolution to the pain in their life that they have suffered. There is no one who has served in the Diocese, at this time or in the future, who has been found guilty of sex abuse and in the future, that will remain the practice of the diocese under the practice of Bishop Murphy."
Rev. Alan Ramirez of the Brookville Reform Church ended the evening with a prayer. He said, "As I sat here this evening I think each and everyone felt that the wounds of Christ were being re-opened. I feel your pain and your hurt. I say to you on behalf of the Church of Jesus Christ - forgive us."
As people exited the church, a man said, "This proves why we're doing it." Another woman said, "I'm shaking. That woman needs all the support our parish can give her." (There were several women around the mother who spoke and they were giving her their phone numbers.)
A man said, "I'm convinced we are still doing the right thing in meeting and talking. I would like to find out the truth."
Ed said, "The truth is powerful and we are starting to get the truth and we mustn't stop until we get the complete truth."
Another person said he read the John Jay report by the Bishops. It is on the web as CUNY.JohnJay.edu.
John DeBellis said he is starting to form a group to fight the Concerned Families of St. Dominic. "They are pulling down the church," he said. "My biggest argument is that many of those people are making a big thing out of this, but to tear down the church and Monsignor Alesandro. I take exception to the way he was treated."
CFSD spokesperson Robert Quinn said, "They (the church) fueled this. There were four articles in Newsday. They denied our use of the church and then the town hall and they kept the issue in the papers. They will do everything, just like Father Doyle said, to discredit us. They had the feeling we would go away when Father Burns went away. [He is going to Rome to study and when he returns he has been assigned to Farmingville where there is a large Spanish population. He was the only priest on the available list who spoke Spanish he said.] We are not stopping this cause. They rely on the fact that we will get sick of it. What we are doing is protecting children."