Religious Order Refuses to Name Accused Priests
Salesianum Community Says Those Suspected of Abuse Are Monitored
By Beth Miller
News Journal [Wilmington DE]
November 18, 2006
An attorney for the religious order that runs Salesianum School said Friday there were no plans to release the names of oblates accused of sexual abuse.
That's despite a recommendation from Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, who on Thursday released the names of 20 priests with substantiated allegations against them and recommended that religious orders operating in the diocese do the same. The diocese includes all of Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland -- about 220,000 Catholics in all, church officials say.
Religious orders do things differently than dioceses, said Vincent Morrison, who represents the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales. When oblates are removed from public ministry for such reasons, they are not just released into the community.
"That would not happen with an oblate," Morrison said, "because any oblate, wherever they are, if there are credible and substantiated allegations of inappropriate contact with a minor, that oblate is removed from ministry and placed in a closely supervised environment."
In addition to the priests' names, Saltarelli also released the names of the parishes where they served, the dates they served there, and -- for most of them -- where they live now. Ten of the priests on his list have died.
He did not release the names of seven accused religious order priests, deferring to their orders' superiors to do so. Saltarelli cannot require the orders in his diocese to release the names, diocese spokesman Robert G. Krebs said, but he has recommended it.
Saltarelli would not comment Friday, preferring to let a letter which ran in Thursday's edition of the diocese's weekly newspaper, The Dialog, speak for him, Krebs said.
Names published before
Three of the accused religious order priests were named in a three-day report published last November by The News Journal, which used court documents to determine their identities.
They are the Rev. Robert J. Hermley of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales; the Rev. Edward Smith, a former instructor at Archmere Academy which is run by the Norbertine Fathers; and the Rev. James W. O'Neill, formerly on the staff of Salesianum School.
Hermley was working at Padua Academy when he pleaded guilty to indecent assault on two teenage boys in 1982 and returned to ministry the same year. He was named in an extensive Philadelphia grand jury report released in 2005. By then, he was living at an Oblate facility in Childs, Md.
Smith and O'Neill are named in civil suits that now are in federal and state courts, respectively.
Archmere officials referred questions to the Rev. James D. Bagnato, who did not return messages left at the Norbertines' facility in Middletown.
O'Neill lives in a very restricted environment, Morrison said. He was living in the Childs, Md., facility last year, but Morrison did not specify O'Neill's residence Friday.
When priests are removed from ministry, "they don't say Mass at a local parish or counsel or anything like that," Morrison said. "Their work is at the retirement facility -- anything from being a companion for someone who needs assisted care, cutting the grass, helping with meals.
"It's not a country club and it's not a prison. But, then again, who in this country that has allegations against them is put in prison? Nobody else is subject to what the priests are subjected to here. They're not sent to jail because they haven't been convicted of anything."
Accused priests don't appear on sexual offender registries for the same reason. Many allegations go back decades, beyond the statute of limitations for such crimes.
In releasing the names of diocesan priests, Saltarelli reversed a long-standing policy of protecting the priests' identities. He did so, he said, because of the arrest last month of a former Delaware priest who was charged with sexually abusing a Syracuse, N.Y., boy, now 18, during the last five or six years. That priest, the Rev. Francis DeLuca, was allowed to retire to Syracuse when he was removed from Wilmington ministry in 1993.
Saltarelli said releasing the names might prevent future abuses, and it might encourage past victims of such abuse to come forward and get the help they need.
'Nobody is going to believe me'
Rosemary Turcol of New Castle said much of the abuse could have been prevented if reports of victims and their families had been taken seriously when problems were first reported.
In 1967, she tried to make such a report against the Rev. Eugene F. Clarahan, one of the deceased priests just named by Saltarelli. She told Clarahan's associate pastor that he molested a male friend while on a school trip. The associate pastor, she said, shook his head and said, "We were afraid this was going to happen."
She pressed him to tell the bishop.
"I was yelling and screaming and he said, 'Rosemary, what are you going to do? You're 17 years old. Do you think anybody is going to believe you?' And I realized, you know what? Probably nobody is going to believe me."
When she became aware of other allegations, she could no longer take Clarahan seriously -- despite his popularity at the St. Peter's parish.
"Every time he said Mass, it was a joke," Turcol said. "I kept wondering, 'How could you be so disrespectful?' And people loved this man. I'm sure people thought it couldn't be Father Clarahan. Not him. He was there for 10 years."
Clarahan was transferred from St. Peter's to Holy Cross in Dover in 1978, then to the Church of the Good Shepherd in Perryville, Md., in 1983, and to St. Benedict in Ridgely, Md., in 1987. He was removed from ministry in 1993 and died in 1999.
Religious orders and dioceses operate under the authority of the pope, but do not share other governmental structures.
More than 200 religious orders operate in the United States, Morrison said, and many are global in scope. They vary widely in the size of their communities, but each must have the permission of Pope Benedict XVI to operate.
Dioceses are regional church authorities. Order priests must have the permission of a bishop to minister within his diocese.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted new reporting requirements and child-protection policies in 2002. The religious orders in 2004 started working with an independent, Texas-based accrediting agency called Praesidium to learn the best way to protect children, youth and vulnerable adults, said the Rev. James Greenfield, director of formation and rector of the Oblates' seminary in Washington D.C.
Priests removed from ministry for sexual abuse allegations are monitored "pursuant to recommendations made by Praesidium," Morrison said, "so there is no appearance or reality of any shell game being played by a religious community."
The Diocese of Wilmington has made similar efforts since the clergy sexual abuse scandal emerged nationally in 2002, adopting a new policy called "For the Sake of God's Children," requiring criminal background checks and imposing strict new guidelines for interaction with children and youth.
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