Archdiocese Delays Naming the Priests It Will Ban

By Daniel J. Wakin
New York Times
September 30, 2003

The wait will go on for New York priests accused of sexually abusing minors.

Cardinal Edward M. Egan has decided which clerics will be removed from the priesthood permanently over allegations that they molested minors. The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York had said the names would be released this week in its monthly newspaper, Catholic New York, which comes out on Thursday.

But yesterday, the archdiocese said the announcement was on hold. The delay came because the archdiocese decided to make a last-minute check with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that all was in order, said the archdiocesan spokesman, Joseph Zwilling.

The conference referred the archdiocese to a canon lawyer, who advised that the cases be passed on for examination to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Mr. Zwilling said. That is the powerful Vatican agency that oversees abuse cases.

The regulations adopted by the American church to deal with its sexual abuse scandal already call for notifying the congregation. The regulations, called norms, won Vatican approval last December.

The canon lawyer consulted by the archdiocese, the Rev. Ronny Jenkins, based his advice on the norms, said Sister Mary Anne Walsh, a spokeswoman for the bishops' conference.

Assuming that the cardinal sticks to his plan to release the names in the archdiocesan newspaper, the earliest date will be in early November, when the next issue is due. That also assumes quick action by the notably slow-moving Vatican, already occupied in October with a celebration of John Paul II's 25th anniversary as pope, the beatification of Mother Teresa and the elevation of new cardinals.

Mr. Zwilling said the archdiocese had not committed an oversight by neglecting to inform the Vatican. "We were following the procedures," he said. "We had prepared the cases. We had consulted throughout with various canon lawyers." He said the bishops' conference could not answer the archdiocese's questions about reporting to the Vatican. "This is a new process for us all," he said.

At least 14 priests have been removed from their jobs since around Easter 2002, and 15 others accused of abuse had already been suspended or removed or have retired.

John C. Dearie, a friend of the most prominent suspended priest, Msgr. Charles M. Kavanagh, expressed anger at the further delay. "This is real purgatory, I believe, for all of the individuals involved in this," Mr. Dearie said.


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