Religious Order Priests Not on List
10 Serving in Diocese, According to Officials
By Beth Miller
News Journal [Wilmington DE]
November 17, 2006
About 10 priests who were ordained by religious orders and are serving in the Diocese of Wilmington have credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them, diocese officials have said.
But their names were not on the list of such priests released Thursday by Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli.
Unless those priests are assigned to a diocesan ministry, the diocese does not supervise their activities, diocese spokesman Robert G. Krebs said. And allegations against those priests are investigated by the orders, he said.
All names known by the diocese, though, have been released to the Attorney General's Office in the past, Krebs said, and Saltarelli has recommended that the superiors of those orders release the names of their accused priests.
As further authority for releasing names, Saltarelli quoted Pope Benedict XVI's statement to Irish bishops that "it is important to establish the truth of what happened in the past [and] to take whatever steps are necessary to prevent it from occurring again."
Wilmington lawyer Thomas Neuberger, who is representing victims in two lawsuits filed against the diocese, religious orders and two priests, said the list of the accused may grow if the orders release the names of their priests. He pointed to the Philadelphia district attorney's 2005 grand jury report, which included religious order priests among its lengthy list of offenders.
And, he said, Saltarelli can order them to do it.
"The bishop is in charge. They can't operate, they can't have a school without his permission, they can't say Mass, they can't counsel, they can't go to the hospital without the bishop's authorization. All the bishop has to say is 'Turn it over.' "
Navy Cmdr. Kenneth Whitwell is one of those suing the diocese, the Norbertines who run Archmere Academy and the Rev. Edward Smith, who Whitwell says abused him while he was an Archmere student.
"Why aren't any order priests on the list?" Whitwell said. "It's disappointing. A priest cannot function as a priest here without the diocese's approval. So I don't buy that argument in so many clean words."
Krebs said religious orders are not governed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which adopted strict new regulations in 2002 and new policies on how to protect children. But, he said, they adopted similar measures for their own religious communities.
"If a bishop walks into a new diocese today, his first step should be to disclose the names of predators, give their records to law enforcement and publicly, emphatically, repeatedly beg victims to come forward," said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "And it shouldn't take another innocent, devastated young life to force such a simple, long-overdue, common-sense step."
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