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Whited Sepulchers

Abuse group protests at local church


QUEENSBURY -- Saturday Mass was beginning soon, but Tim Sawicky stood outside Our Lady of Annunciation Church, snow piling up around his feet, with cars inching by on Aviation Road.

Sawicky, along with about half dozen other demonstrators Saturday afternoon, were protesting the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese handling of an area priest who has been accused of sexually abusing a minor.

The Diocese announced last month that the Rev. Gary Mercure, the pastor of Sacred Heart and St. William parishes in Troy, is under investigation by the Diocese's Sexual Misconduct Review Board.

Mercure is currently on a paid leave of absence.

The allegation dates back to the 1980s when Mercure was an associate pastor at the Queensbury parish.

Mercure, an ordained priest since 1975, was also a pastor at St. Mary's Parish in Glens Falls. He had also worked at parishes in Albany, Latham and Clinton Heights.

"The public has become so complacent and we're just hoping and praying that something changes," Sawicky said.

Sawicky said that he was a victim of abuse from a priest in the 1970s.

Upset that the church's investigation didn't find any wrongdoing on the priest's part, the Schenectady man joined the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an organization that helps victims with the stress of abuse.

An organizer for the group, Mark Lyman, blamed Albany Diocese leader Bishop Howard Hubbard for not quickly removing priests who have come under abuse allegations.

Lyman held a sign that said, "Bishop Hubbard protects predators."

"It used to be a very provocative statement," he said. "I think the public has seen many people come forward who were abused by clergy. So it's not very provocative anymore."

Diocese spokesman Kenneth Goldfarb said Hubbard takes every priest allegation seriously.

"Every complaint that comes to the diocese is investigated," he said. "That's what's happening with Father Mercure."

Goldfarb added that Mercure was moved one week after the allegation surfaced.

"It shows the diocese acted responsibly within a reasonable time frame," Goldfarb said.

The Rev. Bob Hoatson, who came from New Jersey for the demonstration, started a recovery group for victims of sexual abuse three years ago. Since then, he said, the group has been contacted by more than 300 people. The effects of the abuse, especially from a trusted authority figure, can be devastating, Hoatson said.

"It takes God away," he said. "These kids' souls have been murdered."

As parishioners walked into the church for Mass, most ignored the demonstrators who had been asked to move to the other side of the street by a Warren County sheriff's officer.

Jon Gilberston, a Manhattan native who owns a home in Queensbury, said the church shouldn't be blamed for the abuse.

"It's that same old story," he said as he walked inside for Mass. "It's too bad it's happening."

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