Church posts names of Boston clergy accused of child sex abuse
By Tom Cohen with contributions from Samantha Stamler
(CNN) – A total of 250 clerics in the Boston Archdiocese have been accused of child abuse in recent decades, according to information made public Thursday by Cardinal Sean O'Malley in an attempt to help resolve an issue tearing at the core of Catholicism.
O'Malley said the archdiocese posted online the names of 159 accused clergy members, while there were 91 others who also faced some level of accusation but were not named for various reasons.
An investigation that began after the crisis over sexual abuse of children in the Boston Archdiocese fully emerged in 2002 has pored over records dating back more than 60 years, with subsequent decisions on who to name based on the nature of the accusations and other factors, according to O'Malley.
The disclosure by the Boston Archdiocese represented a shift in policy in a further effort to reach out to victims and their families harmed by the sexual abuse scandal, O'Malley said in a seven-page letter accompanying the announcement.
"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 and will continue to strengthen our efforts to protect God's children," the letter concluded.
However, the director of an advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse by priests called the steps announced by O'Malley insufficient and irresponsible, saying only one of the named priests was new to public information.
"We're disappointed with this very belated and begrudging and incomplete list," said a statement by David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Alleging that the names posted by O'Malley deliberately omitted "at least a third of predator priests," Clohessy's statement added that "some kids will be spared some abuse, because some predator priests are now more easily identified, and some victims will feel validation."
"But, many, many more would take comfort if O'Malley released new names instead of continuing the secrecy," the statement said.
O'Malley wrote that the policy change he was announcing "represents the first time that names of accused clerics have been compiled by the Archdiocese in a central location and a readily accessible format."
The letter noted that the searchable lists posted on the website www.bostoncatholic.org included what he called "pertinent information" about each member of the clergy listed, such as the individual's year of birth and year of ordination; whether the cleric is alive or deceased; their current status within their church; the date of any disciplinary action, dismissal or criminal conviction; and a link to their assignment history.
"I am acutely aware of the harm that the abuse of children by clergy has caused in the lives of so many," O'Malley wrote in the letter. "And while I know there will be some who believe our policy changes should go further, after careful consultation and consideration of views expressed by many people and groups, I believe that the changes we are making are appropriate."
According to the letter, one list posted includes the names of all Boston Archdiocese clergy who have been found guilty of sexually abusing a child by the Catholic Church or under criminal law, as well as any accused individuals who voluntarily requested removal from the clergy.
In addition, the list also names archdiocese clergy still facing public accusations of child sex abuse, as well as those who died before public accusations of sex abuse against them could be fully investigated or were leveled in the first place.
A separate list includes the names of clergy eventually cleared of public accusations of sexual abuse, O'Malley's letter said. Some of the priests on the second list have returned to active ministry, he noted.
"In the present environment, a priest who is accused of sexually abusing a minor may never be able to fully restore his reputation, even if cleared after civil or canonical proceedings," the letter added.
The 91 accused priests not named on the lists include 62 deceased clergy who were never publicly accused or fully investigated, O'Malley's letter said.
"I emphasize that our decision not to list the names of deceased priests who have not been publicly accused and as to whom there were no canonical proceedings conducted or completed (most were accused well after their death) does not in any way mean that the archdiocese did not find that the claims of particular survivors who accused those deceased priests to be credible or compelling," the letter said. "Indeed, in many of those cases, the archdiocese already has proceeded to compensate the survivor and provides counseling and pastoral care to those individuals."
Of the other accused clergy not named, 22 faced unsubstantiated accusations, four were not in active ministry and face preliminary investigation, and three were already out of the ministry by their own volition or dismissal and never were publicly accused, O'Malley's letter said.
The archbishop's letter pointed out that most of the sexual abuse cases and allegations involve misconduct, real or claimed, from decades earlier, "before the Church adopted its current child protection policies."
It noted that the "vast majority" of complaints to the archdiocese before 2004 involved alleged incidents from 1965 to 1982, and that more recent data showed that only 4% of the 198 accusations received from 2004 to 2010 were alleged to have occurred after 1990.
"I do not say this in any way to minimize the abuse of minors by Boston priests, which is heinous, or the serious mistakes made by the Church hierarchy in responding to it," O'Malley said in the letter. "Nor do I seek to ignore the harm caused to survivors by these historical incidents, harm which is both current and the subject of our ongoing pastoral response.
"Rather I simply seek to place the problem in context and to give the faithful some confidence that the policies adopted by the Church to protect its children starting in the early 1990s have been effective," O'Malley wrote.
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