More Dioceses Consider Revealing Names of Accused Priests

By Jim Remsen and David O'Reilly
Sun Herald [United States]
Downloaded March 7, 2004

Knight Ridder Newspapers

(KRT) - Joseph Alzugaray (1967-70): 1.

Roger Anderson (1981-83): 2.

Juan Arzube (1975-76): 1.

Michael Baker (1977-99): 23.

On tolled the alphabetized list, through 211 names. All were priests and other Roman Catholic clergy members, all accused of molesting children since 1930 in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

In a rare public accounting last month, the archdiocese posted its full list of names, living and dead, along with the number of accusers and the "incident dates" for each man. The disclosure was necessary, said spokesman Todd Tamberg, to "apologize for the sins of the past" and to encourage other victims to come forward.

After the Archdiocese of Baltimore revealed the names of its 56 accused priests in 2002, 62 more victims stepped forward.

Unlike Baltimore and Los Angeles, the vast majority of the nation's 195 Catholic dioceses have guarded their lists. While media probes and victims' lawsuits have revealed some names, and the dioceses have divulged identities to prosecutors, most bishops have not publicized their lists from the last 50 years, citing legal and fairness issues.

But steady pressure from victim groups and child advocates and the stinging tone of last month's blue-ribbon report on the priest-abuse scandal is causing some dioceses to consider joining Los Angeles, Baltimore, Phoenix and Tucson in naming names.

Following the Feb. 27 report to the U.S. bishops, Toledo Bishop Leonard Blair said he would post a list. Trenton Bishop John M. Smith and Anchorage Archbishop Roger L. Schwietz said they might do the same.

"One argument that has struck me to the heart is parents want to know who are the perpetrators," Schwietz said.

No church rules govern the decision, leaving bishops to their own judgment. The sex-abuse report that the national lay review board submitted to the U.S. bishops was silent on the matter, though its chief author, Robert Bennett, said in interviews that posting names would enhance the church's "openness and transparency."

Victim activists, sex-abuse experts and some prosecutors say the names must be made public to stop abusers from moving to other jobs working with children.

"It would help parents protect their children, because they may see the names of people in the general community they didn't know had an abusive history," said John Salveson, head of the Philadelphia chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. He said his own childhood abuser in New York moved on to start a family-counseling practice without being detected.

Those favoring disclosure say it brings out more victims and shows "the full scope of the problem," said Baltimore spokesman Sean Caine. Baltimore's experience bears that out, he said.

Many bishops and priests counter that while they share information with prosecutors or other dioceses, it is fundamentally unfair to publicly identify priests who have been neither tried nor convicted of a crime.

"It's a matter of weighing the interest of victims and the rights of the accused to due process," said Andrew Walton, spokesman for the Diocese of Camden, which has not named its 33 accused priests.

Walton said his diocese won't name the 10 who are deceased because they "can no longer defend themselves, nor can they harm anyone again."

Others are "old, infirm, retired or ... voluntarily resigned from ministry" before the U.S. bishops enacted a sex-abuse protection charter in 2002, he said. Because they are not subject to the charter's due-process procedures, "it would not be appropriate to make public their accusations by naming them."

Some church officials caution that laws in many states limit disclosures from personnel files. Breaching that or printing a loose accusation could expose a diocese to a lawsuit, they say.

Anita Allen, University of Pennsylvania law school professor and an expert in employment and privacy law, said most states have laws protecting employees from public disclosure of "private facts" such as their sex life, "though it's an open question if an accusation of a crime is a private fact."

Further, Allen said, "accusing someone of being a sexual predator might be libelous. The defense against libel is always truth, but employers expose themselves to liability when they make these things public, even if it's made in response to concerns about this epidemic of sexual abuse."

Many bishops and priests also say some victims object to having their abuser's name publicized out of fear of being exposed themselves.

The four dioceses used different methods in their postings. Los Angeles listed all allegations, while stressing that many proved unfounded. (Cardinal Roger Mahony was on the list, though he had been cleared of wrongdoing.)

Baltimore listed only "credibly" accused priests, and only if they had been confronted with the accusations, "even if they were dead by the time of our disclosure," said spokesman Caine.

Tucson listed only credible cases, and attempted to contact relatives of deceased priests, "because some were not aware of the accusations," Bishop Gerald Kicanas said.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese "has no immediate plans" to make public its list of 44 credibly accused priests, spokeswoman Catherine Rossi said.

Rossi noted that "no single standard has been employed" by U.S. dioceses, and said "the confidential nature" of the Philadelphia grand jury probe into the abuse scandal here has affected what the archdiocese "has deemed it appropriate to release." She declined to elaborate.

"If this were an easy decision to make," said Los Angeles' Tamberg, "more dioceses would have posted the names."


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