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After Years of Silence, Man Tells of Abuse

He and others urge abolition of statute of limitations on sexual abuse by clergy

May 21, 2003 | The Post-Standard

For decades, Charles Bailey says he kept the secret to himself. After time, the Baldwinsville man admitted it to his wife.

Tuesday, he went public with a story of how he allegedly was abused by a Catholic priest as a boy.

Bailey's voice cracked and he was on the verge of tears as he detailed his journey to Sen. Thomas Duane and others at a public hearing in Albany.

Bailey and other victims, including several from Central New York, implored Duane and his colleagues to pass a law abolishing the statute of limitations for prosecuting clergy sex abuse crimes.

Bailey, now a 52-year-old grandfather of six, said he was abused between the ages of 10 and 12 by a priest in the Syracuse Diocese who has since died. As a teenager, Bailey said, he wanted no one to know. He got married at 21.

"I couldn't tell my young bride of this as I felt so dirty, used and defective," he said. "The shame, guilt and embarrassment was monumental. I would practice telling my wife in the mirror but never could get the courage up."

Plus, he said, they were busy raising their four children.

"I vowed to myself to take it to my grave, as that was the only control I felt I really had," Bailey said. "But with the much-publicized Boston priest abuse, I broke down one day while watching it on TV and told my wife."

Susan Bailey knelt by her

husband's side in the Albany hearing room Tuesday and comforted him as he struggled to finish his story.

"I have felt like damaged goods," he said, his voice quavering, "for over 40 years now and it eats me up, every day."

Danielle Cummings, communications director for the Syracuse Diocese, was unable to reach officials Tuesday who could comment.

Charles Bailey called priest sexual abuse "evil" and called the perpetrators "premeditating with their prey. They befriend us, then spend time with us, then meet our families, then befriend our families, all the while laying their groundwork for the planned sexual abuse and rape of us."

Bailey said after the hearing that he decided to go public because his oldest grandson, whom he described as "so trusting and innocent," is about the age he was when he was abused.

"This has got to stop," Bailey said. "We can't have the church hide behind canon law."

Duane, D-Manhattan, has introduced a package of bills that would require clergy to report to police accusations of child abuse going back a half-century; allow adults who believe they were victimized as children more time to sue; and prohibit the use of charitable money for settlements of lawsuits in which the victim must agree to keep the incident secret.

Duane is in the Senate minority and has little ability to get his legislation passed.

But two majority-party lawmakers have introduced clergy-reporting legislation, although it is less far-reaching than Duane's.

Bills sponsored by Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, and Assemblyman John McEneny, D-Albany, would require clergy to report child abuse in a family setting to the state's hot line except allegations learned through confidential communications to clergy that are privileged and require clergy to search institutional records and report allegations of child abuse by active clergy no matter how long ago. For retired clergy, the church would have to go back 20 years.

Also at Duane's hearing Tuesday, Joyce Nebush, of Utica, head of the Syracuse-Utica chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told her story of abuse as a child in Massachusetts.

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