Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Activists keep up church protest
ALBANY, N.Y. -- Half-a-dozen Albany police officers ensured that protesters abided by a 6-day-old restraining order Sunday, keeping them no closer than 100 feet of Holy Cross Church, where a priest they claim is guilty of abuse was celebrating Mass.
It was the 17th week that demonstrators from the local chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests have picketed outside the Western Avenue church, but it was the first time that a court order forced them across the street -- where at least one homeowner turned on his sprinklers.
"We're peaceful people," said protester Timothy Sawicki, 46, who says he was abused by a different priest in Schenectady in 1976. That priest, the Rev. Alan Jupin, has since been cleared by the church, but Sawicki questions the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese's ability to fairly investigate the claims of abuse, which he says church officials tried to cover up.
"If they want us back 100 feet," Sawicki said, holding several large cardboard signs, "that means they're afraid of the truth."
The temporary restraining order was issued Tuesday by a state Supreme Court justice after the diocese requested it, citing complaints of confrontations with protesters from church officials and parishioners.
The order was directed at attorney John Aretakis, who represents a number of alleged clergy abuse victims, and his associates, including local SNAP co-director Mark Lyman and other protesters.
The protesters are calling for the removal from active ministry of Holy Cross' pastor, the Rev. Daniel J. Maher. Maher was cleared of molestation allegations two weeks ago after an investigation by the diocese.
A hearing on whether to make the order permanent will be held Wednesday afternoon.
"I'm confident that when all of the information is presented to Judge Spargo, he will see that our protests are peaceful," said Lyman, who was joined by as many as 10 protesters over the course of the morning. "I would characterize it as an inconvenience," he said, "but it certainly will not stop our overall goal here."
Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb said of the order, "I think there are a number of angry people who want to be left alone."
See also, the never-ending chronicle of church-related crime.