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Sexual abuse transparency spreads across U.S. dioceses

29 more dioceses publish clergy lists since Little Rock released names

Published: January 10, 2019   
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After the Pennsylvania grand jury report was released Aug. 14 detailing more than 1,000 cases of sexual abuse of minors by about 300 priests in a span of 70 years within six of the state’s dioceses, it again put a microscope on dioceses throughout the country on what was or was not done to protect minors.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, in an effort for transparency, was one of the first bishops to release a disclosure list Sept. 10 naming 12 priests who had credible allegations of abuse. It was the first time 11 names on the list were made public. Bishop Taylor emphasized at the time that releasing the list was “simply the right thing to do.”

Since then, there has been a flood of disclosure lists from dioceses, as well as a religious order, throughout the country.

“I think that is a positive development,” Bishop Taylor told Arkansas Catholic in an email regarding other dioceses releasing their own lists. “People in general have a right to know and in the case of victims, seeing their abuser exposed empowers them and helps as yet unknown victims to find the courage to come forward to receive help dealing with the most painful experience of their entire life.”

Before Bishop Taylor released the diocesan list, only five dioceses or archdioceses (not including Pennsylvania dioceses) had voluntarily released or updated their clergy abuse list. They included the archdioceses in Seattle and Baltimore and dioceses in Gary, Ind., Great Falls-Billings, Mont., and San Diego.

Arkansas Catholic reviewed articles from Catholic News Services and a number of diocesan and archdiocesan websites to summarize disclosures since the Diocese of Little Rock’s Sept. 10 announcement.

Since September, another 29 dioceses or archdioceses in 16 states and the District of Columbia and four provinces of the Jesuits announced or updated their own lists of known priest abusers. As of Jan. 3, 41 dioceses have published or updated their lists with names of accused priests since the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Expected to be released by Jan. 31 are the lists of 15 dioceses in Texas, according to the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops.

The reporting period for some entities went as far back as 95 years, but most dioceses and archdioceses were reporting abuse that happened in the past 70 years, which was consistent with what was reported in the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

Attorneys general in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Virginia have opened investigations into dioceses and archdioceses. The Archdiocese of Anchorage also appointed an independent commission to review all personnel files of clerics and religious since it was established in 1966, according to an Oct. 25 CNS article.

Bishop Taylor said it is important for dioceses and religious orders to release lists, if possible, before they are forced to by the courts.

“Reluctance to release lists suggests that a diocese is more concerned about institutional concerns than it is about confronting this evil and helping victims, many of whom continue to suffer deep wounds decades after the abuse they suffered,” he said.

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