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Last updated 1:57AM ET
November 30, 2021
WUSF 89.7 News
WUSF 89.7 News
People Abused by Priests Demand Local Action
(WUSF) - Mary Grant says she was was abused as a young child in a Catholic church in her native California. She later decided to do something about it. She because western regional director for SNAP, a national self-help support group for people who have been victimized by clergy.

Grant wore a picture of herself as a child at about the age she was abused. She and several other people gathered at the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg headquarters on Ninth Street North. They had a message for Bishop Robert Lynch.

GRANT: We're calling on Bishop Lynch to put action behind his words. It's one thing to say you're sorry, it's one thing to say that you pray for the victims. It's another thing to take tangible steps to make sure these victims can heal and kids can be protected.

Grant and the other members of Survivors Network of those Abused By Priests had a list of demands for the bishop. They want him to publicize a list of priests who have had "credible accusations" against them.

GRANT: Our truth is an incredible gift that will prevent this abuse from happening again. And so we're urging the bishop that when he goes to the parishes, that he reach out and bring survivors of those who have been abused with him.

They were quickly hustled out of the lobby of the diocese after delivering their letter of demands.

But there was little acrimony between the two groups. They were allowed to camp out in the parking lot of the diocese headquarters. And Vicky Bedard, a spokeswoman for the diocese, chatted with SNAP members.

BEDARD: Bishop Lynch is one of the most proactive bishops in the country as far as this. This situation is dear to him, protecting the children and vulnerable adults.

Bedard says Bishop Lynch was out of town. She says in his ten years with the St. Petersburg Diocese, the bishop has enacted a "zero tolerance" policy on an accusations. And he has appointed a victim assistance minister.

BEDARD: When there is an allegation, we go immediately to the parish. There's town hall meetings, we contact the press, we let them know to advertise if there is an alleged victim, has a concern, or knows someone that they get in contact with the police.

Martha Jean Lorenzo is director of the Greater Tampa Area SNAP group. She enlisted the help of SNAP members from around the country because they are in Tampa for a leadership conference.

Lorenzo was abused by a nun at a Catholic girls college when she was relatively older, at 21 years old. In addition to it robbing her of her innocence, Lorenzo says it robbed her of her love of the church.

LORENZO: I've never had repressed memories. I've also known it, I've always strugged with it. It was like the beginning of the end for me. I graduated from college and just went into a downward spiral.

REPORTER: This obviously has shaken your faith in the church. Do you still consider yourself a member of the flock? LORENZO: I consider myself a member of the flock. There have been long periods of time when I did not attend mass or receive holy communion. I cannot take communion from his hands, thinking I'm taking the Lord, Jesus Christ, because I don't know where father has been, or what he's done.

Lorenzo covers the northern half of Florida for SNAP. She says many of the people she helps have been so tramautized that they can't even set foot in a church. She says there are about 50 members in the Tampa Bay area. Nationwide, Grant estimates SNAP has more than 6,000 members.
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