Help us expand our reach! Please share this article
In a decision he called "complex" and "difficult," this week Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley is releasing the names of clergy accused of the sexual abuse of minors.
The searchable list, that was to be released on the archdiocesan website BostonCatholic.org on Aug. 25, will include the names of the accused clerics, their year of birth, their year of ordination, whether they are laicized, dismissed or convicted and a link to the cleric's assignment history.
"The Archdiocese is continually evaluating its policies and practices to ensure that our child protection and abuse prevention efforts are further strengthened," the cardinal wrote in an open letter explaining his decision. "Consistent with that effort, I have studied suggestions that we enhance the present Archdiocesan policy with respect to sharing information about clergy accused of sexually abusing minors."
The list of clergy members will be divided into five categories: those who have been found guilty of sexually abusing a child by Church or civil authorities, those who have been laicized after being accused, those who have been accused but whose canonical investigations are still pending, those who have been publicly accused but who were already laicized prior to the archdiocese receiving the abuse allegations and those who have been publicly accused of abuse of a minor but whose canonical or criminal proceedings have not been completed due to the cleric's death.
Any clergy member publicly accused of sexually abusing a child where the allegations have been found unsubstantiated by the Review Board or where the priest has been acquitted after a canonical process will also be published in a separate list.
According to Father Richard M. Erikson, vicar general and moderator of the curia of the Archdiocese of Boston, "much of this information has been available through our website previously, but now it's going to be centralized and organized in a searchable way so that anyone going into our website can find this information easily and thoroughly available to them."
"The cardinal's perspective has been that we need to be forthright and transparent about the sexual abuse of minors by naming the darkness; it helps to bring healing," he said.
Father Erikson underscored the cardinal's commitment "to do everything possible" to protect children, noting that "the primary motivation in this consolidation of information on our website is the protection of children."
In all, 159 names of accused archdiocesan clerics are included on the list.
Not included are 91 names of clergy members who have not been publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor: 62 deceased clerics whose canonical proceedings were never conducted, 22 priests whose accusations could not be substantiated, four priests or former priests not in active ministry who are the subject of a preliminary investigation and three priests who were laicized or dismissed before they were accused.
In his letter, Cardinal O'Malley explained his rationale for not including the names of those clergy members.
"Not only must the archdiocese honor its commitment to protect children, it must also be mindful of the due process concerns of those whose guilt has not been established," he said.
In the case of deceased clergy members whose cases had never been investigated, "there is, by definition, no consideration relating to child protection, and the countervailing considerations related to due process and protecting reputations become more substantial," the cardinal said.
"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," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He said that including the names of priests whose accusations could not be substantiated would be "unfair" to the clerics "after civil or Church processes have already found the allegations against them to be unsubstantiated."
Also not included on the list are any members of religious orders accused of sexually abusing minors while ministering in the archdiocese, largely because the Archdiocese of Boston "does not determine the outcome in such cases," he said.
However, the cardinal urged religious orders to "consider their own policies with regard to publishing the names of accused clergy."
Victim advocates, such as BishopAccountability.org, have long pushed for dioceses to release the names of all clergy accused of sexually abusing a minor.
Earlier this year, BishopAccountability's co-directors Anne Barrett Doyle and Terence McKiernan sent a letter to Mary Jane Doherty, chairperson of the archdiocese's Implementation and Oversight Advisory Committee Review Board, which advises the cardinal in the assessment of complaints of child sexual abuse.
The letter accused Cardinal O'Malley of ignoring "his obligation to you, to the public, to innocent priests, to the victims of unnamed priests, and, perhaps, to vulnerable children" by delaying the release of the names of accused priests.
However, Father Erikson stated that the cardinal's decision came after many months of consultation with advisors and advisory bodies, including the Presbyteral Council and the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, the archdiocese's primary lay advisory board, survivors of abuse and local bishops.
"The cardinal was very concerned about the impact that his decision will have on survivors, on the diocese as a whole, and on the presbyterate," Father Erikson said.
He noted that "this is one of the decisions the cardinal has struggled with greatly because there are so many different perspectives and so many different concerns to weigh."
"The cardinal took the time he needed to come to the decision," Father Erikson said.
Father Erikson also said that compiling such a comprehensive list was very "time consuming." Each case had to be looked at individually in order to ensure accuracy, he said.
The list will be regularly updated, he added.
"The archdiocese will supplement the lists being published today on its website on a regular basis and will continue to make announcements at key stages of individual cases, consistent with prior policy," stated Cardinal O'Malley in his letter. He also urged anyone with additional information or corrections to the list to contact the Delegate for Investigations.
"It is my belief that in amending our policy and organizing this information on our website so that it is readily accessible, we take one more step forward in our efforts to assume responsibility for our past failures and reaffirm our commitment to assure that our present day standards protect the children of our community," Cardinal O'Malley said.
"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," he said.