Archdiocese Lists Priests Accused of Abuse
BOSTON — The Archdiocese of Boston on Thursday published a partial list of clergy members accused of sexual abuse, nearly a decade after a scandal erupted here involving widespread abuse by priests and revelations that the archdiocese had been shielding molesters for years.
Victim advocacy groups have long pressed the archdiocese to publish such a list, a step that a number of other dioceses have already taken. Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley first suggested in 2009 that he would publish a list; diocesan officials said this week that it had taken two years to gather the necessary feedback and weigh complicated issues like the due process rights of priests whose cases had not been fully adjudicated.
In an open letter, Cardinal O’Malley said he had decided to publish a list of 134 priests and two deacons “after serious and thoughtful consideration and prayer.” They include priests whom the church or courts have found guilty of sexually abusing a child, others who left the priesthood before or after accusations of abuse and dead priests who have been publicly accused of abuse.
The list, published in a searchable database on the diocese’s Web site, also includes 22 current diocesan priests who remain on administrative leave while their cases are investigated.
Separately, Cardinal O’Malley has listed 25 priests who were publicly accused of molesting children but for whom the archdiocese found the accusations to be unsubstantiated.
“My deepest hope and prayer is that the efforts I am announcing today will provide some additional comfort and healing for those who have suffered from sexual abuse by clergy,” Cardinal O’Malley said in the letter.
The names of an additional 91 accused diocesan priests have not been listed. They include 62 dead priests who have not been publicly accused and 22, mostly still alive, who have not been publicly accused and could not be proved to have molested children. Cardinal O’Malley also chose not to publish the names of clergy members belonging to religious orders or other dioceses who were accused of sexual abuse while working in the Boston Archdiocese. He said it was the responsibility of their orders or dioceses to do so, an explanation that angered victim advocates. Victims’ groups said at least 70 such clergy members had been accused, including some thought to have had multiple victims.
“This is shameless hairsplitting,” said Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
In addition to names of accused priests, Cardinal O’Malley’s list includes the year each was ordained and whether he is alive. For living priests, it includes whether the accusation has been substantiated or is still under investigation. There are links to the assignment histories of each accused priest, said the Rev. Richard M. Erikson, vicar general of the archdiocese.
“It’s all been in the public domain,” Father Erikson said. “But in terms of a systematic listing, this is the first time we have consolidated the information in a user-friendly way.”
The database does not include photographs or details of accusations.
Some victims’ groups said the list was commendable but flawed, partly because it did not include priests from religious orders or any names that were not already in the public domain.
“If O’Malley’s goal were truly to reach as many victims as possible, and to protect as many children as possible, he would have released the longest possible list today,” said Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks records in abuse cases.
Father Erikson said that Cardinal O’Malley consulted with a lay advisory board, priests, survivors and others before deciding whose names to include. About 30 other dioceses, including the Archdioceses of Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have already published names of accused priests.
Cardinal O’Malley, who replaced Cardinal Bernard Law in 2003, has spent much of his tenure trying to restore faith in a church rocked by the abuse scandal. Diocesan officials emphasized that even before publishing the list, Cardinal O’Malley had put in place a number of procedures meant to prevent sexual abuse and help victims heal.
David Clohessy, the national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that while the list was “helpful,” it would leave people confused about whether many of the priests on it — the ones who have not been officially found guilty — were predators.
Reprinted from The New York Times, National, of Friday, August 26, 2011.