Texas dioceses to join Fort Worth in disclosing names of clergy accused of sexual abuse

North Texas Catholic
(Oct 10, 2018) Local


Editor's Note: The full text of Bishop Michael Olson's letter to the faithful regarding the release of accused names is available here.

FORT WORTH — To promote healing and ensure a safer environment for children, the 15 dioceses in Texas plus the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter announced Oct. 10 that they will publicly release the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

Until now, only the Diocese of Fort Worth had publicly disclosed the names of priests and religious credibly accused of sexual abuse, a move made in 2005 and which continues today as part of Bishop Michael Olson’s zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of minors. The list has been published online since 2007.

“The protection of our children is a moral obligation and is of paramount importance to the Diocese of Fort Worth,” Bishop Olson said in an Oct. 10 letter to the faithful. “When it comes to the protection of children, complacency is unacceptable.

“In that regard, publicly identifying clergy and religious brothers and sisters who are the subjects of credible allegations of sexual abuse against a minor serves an important role in eradicating the evil of sexual abuse and in helping the diocese to identify and assist those who have suffered from abuse.”

Texas Catholic Conference Executive Director Jennifer Allmon said in a press release Oct. 10 that the bishops’ decision “was made in the context of their ongoing work to protect children from sexual abuse, and their efforts to promote healing and a restoration of trust in the Catholic Church.”

“This is an action in response to the faithful’s call for greater accountability and transparency,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Every bishop in our state has made a statement expressing his concern for all who have been hurt and I want to express my personal sorrow at such fundamental violations of trust that have happened.

“We are completely committed to eradicating the evil of sexual abuse in the Church and promoting healing among the faithful and those injured by this crime,” Cardinal DiNardo added.

The Diocese of Fort Worth will continue publicly displaying its list of accused priests online at fwdioc.org/safe-environment. Director of Communications Pat Svacina said the list — along with a list naming priests who have been laicized — is kept as accurate and up-to-date as possible. Currently, it lists 15 priests, one permanent deacon, and one religious brother.

The statewide plan primarily affects the 14 other Texas dioceses and the ordinariate. They have a deadline of Jan. 31, 2019, to publish their lists and are currently reviewing files of bishops, priests, and deacons dating back to 1950. Like in Fort Worth, the dioceses will also continually update the lists.

With approximately 8.5 million Catholics and 1,320 Catholic parishes in Texas, the effort to compile and publish the lists represents a “major project,” Allmon said.

Nevertheless, it’s an “encouraging” collegial action Bishop Olson stated.

The disclosures — along with actions already in place, such as mandatory background checks and mandatory notification of civil authorities in cases of abuse — will augment Safe Environment programs in all Texas dioceses.

Bishop Olson added that the Fort Worth diocese “will continue to take affirmative steps to ensure the safety of our children” and restated his commitment to “prevent any such act to be perpetrated against anybody else.”

“As the Bishop of Fort Worth, I maintain a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse of minors by clergy because ministry in the Church is a grace from God that carries with it sober responsibility.” 

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