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Monday, July 7, 2014 - 12:29pm

Georgia Catholics Say Pope Taking First Steps to Tackle Abuse

Some survivors of sexual abuse by priests and other concerned Catholics in Georgia are welcoming the news that Pope Francis met with victims at the Vatican Monday. But many say the Catholic Church, which has been dealing with a widespread abuse scandal for two decades, is still failing to turn abusers over to civilian authorities for prosecution.

Dennis Horion, an abuse survivor who runs a nonprofit in Covington that pairs horses with victims of abuse for therapy, sums up the gamut of emotions many survivors feel: “It’s a good first step and it’s not enough on any level.”

Horion says up until now, the Pope hasn’t done much to acknowledge victims of abuse because he’d discussed the issue very little. And he says victims need to be acknowledged. He also said they need to strengthen their relationships with clergy since for many Catholicism is the faith they grow up in and continue to believe in.

The Church’s highest official met with victims ten days after defrocking an archbishop in the Dominican Republic found guilty of abusing teenage boys. And the two overtures together are encouraging signs to some.

John Dearie chairs the Georgia chapter of Voices of the Faithful. It’s a group founded a decade ago by concerned Catholics in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal. He says it’s high time the Pope took public steps to address the scandal.

“I do feel some progress has been made,” he said in an interview. “I think there’s more to be made. This recent defrocking of an archbishop is a major step forward.”

Others felt Monday’s meeting still fell far short of making amends and cleansing the institution.

Linda Cook of Grayson is a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused By Priests. She says as long as abusers remain unpunished work needs to be done.

“You can apologize all day long but it doesn’t get perpetrators away from kids,” she said.

Archbishop Wilton Gregory is on personal leave this month, and was unavailable for comment.

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