Other Texas dioceses join Fort Worth in release of names of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse

North Texas Catholic
(Jan 31, 2019) Local

Bishop Michael Olson speaks during the opening session at V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry conference in Grapevine in Sept. 2018. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Following the example set by the Diocese of Fort Worth in 2005, the names of clergy members credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor were released January 31 by the other 14 Catholic dioceses in Texas and the Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter. The move is an effort by Texas bishops to restore public trust.

Compiled independently but released on the same day, the overall list names 278 individual clerics from all 15 dioceses who had credible allegations made against them in Texas beginning in 1950. A “credible allegation” is one a diocese believes is true after reviewing reasonable and relevant information and consulting diocesan lay conduct review boards and/or other professionals. In the Diocese of Fort Worth such an allegation requires removal of the accused from ministry.

In the statewide disclosure, duplicate names appearing on multiple diocesan lists and the names of non-clergy were removed.

The first Texas diocese to publicly identify priests accused of abuse within its jurisdiction, the Diocese of Fort Worth has 17 clergymen with credible allegations of abusing a minor. Updated on the diocesan website since 2007, the list includes eight diocesan priests, one permanent deacon, one religious brother, and seven priests from other dioceses or religious orders. Eleven are dead and several served jail sentences. None are in active ministry.

Publishing the list is part of the diocese’s ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults and its commitment to transparency, accountability, and healing for victims.

“I support the other Texas bishops for taking like action,” Fort Worth Bishop Michael Olson said in a statement. “This step is taken to assist victims in healing and for the sake of transparency and accountability.”

In this 2017 photo, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston Houston speaks to the crowd at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas. (NTC/Thao Nguyen)

Calling the protection of children a “seriously grave moral obligation,” the bishop pledged affirmative steps to ensure the safety of children will continue in the diocese.

Since 2002, the Diocese of Fort Worth has required all clergy, church employees, lay ministers, catechists, school teachers and all volunteers to take a safe environment training course. Under new guidelines implemented last year, the course must be repeated every two years. Information shared during the session encourages and reinforces a culture of awareness, knowledge, and vigilance in protecting all persons within the parishes, schools, and diocese. To date, 34,000 adults have received current training to identify the signs of child sex abuse and misconduct.

As part of the diocese’s zero tolerance policy, any actual or suspected report of abuse is reported to law enforcement for investigation.

Prior to serving in ministry or other volunteer service, applicants must pass a complete background check involving a National Criminal and Sex Offender search. A signed Code of Conduct Agreement is also mandatory.

“It is the responsibility of the Catholic Church to be at the forefront of these efforts at eradicating the evil of sexual misconduct with minors in our society through both our words and actions,” Bishop Olson emphasized.

The bishop offered his sincere apologies to anyone who suffered abuse perpetrated against them by clergy in the diocese or others who worked for the Church.

“I pray that healing and reconciliation is achieved for every victim of sexual abuse and that perpetrators are brought to justice,” he added. “As your bishop, I will make every effort to prevent anyone from ever again suffering such an indignity.”

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, expressed his “deepest regret for the harm that has been done.

“In multiple incidents over the years, the Church and her ministers failed to protect the most vulnerable souls entrusted to our care,” he said. “There is no excuse for the actions of those credibly accused of such sins against the human person.”

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio speaks at V National Encuentro of Hispanic/Latino Ministry in Grapevine in September 2018. (NTC/Ben Torres)

Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio called releasing the names of credibly accused clergy the “right thing to do” and a “move forward” in building a healthier community and society. He said each diocese remains committed to supporting and working with survivors and others affected by clergy abuse by offering psychological and pastoral services through a victim assistance coordinator.

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was founded in 2012 and is based in Houston, had not received any allegations of clergy abuse of a minor. In a statement, the ordinariate said it will publicly disclose any credible allegation should one occur in the future.

The Diocese of Fort Worth invites anyone who has information about abuse or who has been abused by any priest, deacon, employee, or volunteer of the Church to contact us so the Church can reach out to you or any victims. Please contact the Office of Victim Assistance at 817-945-9345; the Director of Safe Environment at 817-945-9334; or the Chancellor and Moderator of the Curia, Monsignor E. James Hart, at 817-945-9315. If a crime has been committed, we urge you to immediately contact local law enforcement officials, and then contact the diocese.

Bishop Olson urged the faithful to “please join me in praying for all who are victims and survivors of sexual abuse especially as perpetrated against minors. Let us work together in our society in eradicating this grave evil.”

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