The Catholic Archdiocese of Boston has released a list of 159 priests who have been accused of child sexual abuse to protect children as well as assist survivors of abusive clergy, but activists say it's too late and too little.
“Having met with hundreds of survivors, I know firsthand the scars you carry,” Archbishop Seán O’Malley said in an open letter to the people of the Archdiocese as he made the list public Thursday. “And I carry with me every day the pain of the Church’s failures. I express once again my sorrow for your pain and my apology for any way the Church and its clergy have failed you.”
The web-based list was released as O’Malley announced revisions to the policy of the Boston Archdiocese with respect to disclosing names of clergy accused of sexually abusing minors. The list did not carry photographs and was compiled after a review of the sexual abuse allegations in the files at the archdiocese for the past 70 years, according to Boston Globe.
“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 Archbishop said in his letter.
However, Attorney General Martha Coakley wasn’t happy. “Those names should be disclosed in the interest of the victims and public safety,” Boston Globe quoted her as saying. “While today was an important first step, we urge the leaders of the Archdiocese to complete this effort toward transparency and publicly disclose the names of those accused from other orders and those who were already laicized.”
O’Malley initially promised to bring out a list of 250 accused clerics in a March 2009 letter. But it came two years later and omitted the names of 91 additional accused, most of whom are dead as well as those from religious orders and other dioceses who worked in Boston area.
Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney who represents clergy abuse victims, told Boston Globe that the omissions were a disservice to victims. “It’s disappointing … since naming them [additional accused priests] would allow sexual abuse victims to try and heal and perhaps understand that they were not the only ones abused by a particular priest.”
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said the archbishop’s reasoning was “shameless hairsplitting” that endangered children. “This is about safeguarding innocent kids, comforting wounded adults and exposing unhealthy secrecy. It’s not about which individual Catholic official signs which individual Catholic predator’s paycheck,” she was quoted as saying.
O’Malley said he had a reason to exclude the names of the deceased accused. As to deceased priests, there was, by definition, no consideration relating to child protection, he said, but there were genuine considerations related to due process and protecting reputations. “In the vast majority of these cases, the priest was accused after he had already passed away and accordingly had no chance to address the allegations being brought against him.”
O’Malley added that the Archdiocese had had a “vigorous policy” with respect to disclosing information about clergy accused of abusing minors since 2002. The archdiocese is prompt in reporting allegations to law enforcement agencies and in publicly disclosing when a priest is removed from active ministry pending an investigation, he said. “Much has been accomplished in Boston since 2002, but our work in this area is continuing, and we will remain ever vigilant.”
The archdiocese will amend the list as more allegations of clergy abuse are investigated and settled.