Law Firm Makes Public Names of Ogdensburg and Syracuse Priests Accused of Abuse
By Larry Robinson
Watertown Daily News
March 14, 2018
The names of eight priests associated with the Diocese of Ogdensburg who are alleged to have sexually molested children have been made public by a Minnesota-based law firm representing victims of child abuse.
The names of the Ogdensburg priests — along with some 19 others from the Diocese of Syracuse — were released during a live press conference streamed on Facebook by the firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates.
The priests associated with sexual abuse allegations within the Ogdensburg Diocese are:
Father John F. Fallon; Father Theodore M. Gillette; Father John Hunt: Father Liam O’Doherty; Father Robert M. Shurtleff: Father Clark S. White; Father David E. Wisniewski; and Father Paul F. Worczak.
Some of the priests are deceased, while others are listed as whereabouts unknown, according to the report.
“The Diocese of Ogdensburg can be viewed as a microcosm of the national problem of priests sexually assaulting minors because the diocese fails to fully disclose its knowledge of sexually abusive priests,” the law firm’s report states.
“Upon instituting a zero-tolerance policy in 2002, half of the eight publicly known perpetrators were removed — fathers Gillette, Shurtleff, White and Wisniewski — and one priest, Father John Fallon, pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography,” the report states.
In addition to naming priests from the Diocese of Ogdensburg, the law firm released a separate report unmasking alleged sexual abusers associated with the Diocese of Syracuse. They are:
Fathers Daniel W. Casey Jr.; Felix R. Colosimo; Donald J. Crosby; Charles H. Eckerman; Francis J. Furfaro; Bernard Garstka; John F. Harrold; James C. Hayes; Donald J. Hebert; Thomas F. Keating; William A. Lorenz; Chester Misercola; Thomas E. Neary; Robert A. Ours; Albert J. Proud; James F. Quinn; Henry C. Sewall; Thomas Trane and John M. Zeder.
The Diocese of Ogdensburg and the Diocese of Syracuse cover a large section of New York state, and together helped further crimes of sexual abuse over the decades by remaining quiet on the issue, according to representatives of Jeff Anderson & Associates PA law firm.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse is comprised of seven counties in Central New York and oversees 133 parishes, 24 schools and 257 priests, according to the report.
Likewise, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg comprises eight counties across most of Northern New York and encompasses 12,036 square miles, 99 parishes, approximately 500,000 people and 126 priests, the law firm said.
Jeff Anderson, head of the firm that bears his name, said the names of the priests made public Wednesday by members of his staff represent just a fraction of those involved in sexual abuse within the Catholic church, including across New York state.
He said his firm’s most recent unmasking of priest identities is only a start.
“They have been keeping this secret for a long time,” Mr. Anderson said during a phone interview. “We’ve been pressing to get the word out to protect kids. It’s long past due. The heat is on them now, and they only respond to fire.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, Anderson & Associates attorney Mike Reck called on the bishops of both dioceses to make public the names of all priests who have been accused of abuse.
“We hope the diocese will view this as being on the cusp of doing the right thing,” Mr. Reck said. “They have this information. They could disclose it and we hope they do.”
However, in a statement, James Crowley, Chancellor and spokesman for the Diocese of Ogdensburg, said there will no such list of priests published on behalf of his diocese.
“The concern of Bishop LaValley and the Diocese of Ogdensburg remains with the victims of sexual abuse by clergy and their healing,” Mr. Crowley said. “To protect the privacy of victims, the diocese will not release or confirm names of accused clergy.”
He said some victims have asked Bishop LaValley to not release the name of their abuser.
“We pray that victims will participate in the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, in which victims are finding healing and peace,” he said. “We continue to ask forgiveness for harm caused by sexual abuse, work diligently to prevent the abuse of children and pray for the healing and well-being of all survivors.”
Earlier this month church officials in Ogdensburg announced the formation of an independent two-person panel to determine whether financial compensation will be given to those alleging sexual abuse as children at the hands of Catholic clergy across the north country.
The allegations of sexual abuse of children within the Ogdensburg Diocese date back decades, according to the church.
The newly formed Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program will determine whether compensation will be given to alleged sexual abuse victims in exchange for dropping current and future lawsuits against the diocese or the church.
In announcing formation of the compensation panel on March 1, church officials at the Ogdensburg Diocese said they had initially reached out to 38 victims.
Allegations have been lodged against approximately 20 priests dating back to the 1940s, according to the diocese.
Danielle Cummings, Chancellor and Director of Communications for the Diocese of Syracuse, said the Central New York diocese would also not be releasing a complete list of priests accused of abuse. As in the case of the Ogdensburg Diocese, she said the bishop in Syracuse has made agreements with some victims.
“As Bishop Cunningham has explained, he recognizes that some victims would like the names released and other victims have asked him directly to not release the names of their abusers,” Ms. Cunningham said in a statement. “In order to respect both requests, the diocese has confirmed names of abusers if a victim has brought them forward and they were found to be credible allegations.”
She added that the names released on Wednesday have been reported publicly in the past, with the exception of Rev. Thomas Trane.
“Thomas Trane is not a priest of the Diocese of Syracuse,” she said.
The Syracuse Diocese has also initiated an Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program to reach out to those who have been harmed by members of the clergy, according to Ms. Cunningham
“The Diocese of Syracuse has made efforts to contact all those who have come forward to the diocese to report abuse in the past to invite them to be a part of this program,” she said. “We pray that the publicity brought forth by today’s press conference helps victims participate in the program.”
Ms. Cunningham’s statement on behalf of the diocese also asked for forgiveness.
“Bishop Cunningham and the Diocese of Syracuse continue to ask for forgiveness for the sins of past abusers,” she said. “Over the past 15 years — since the crisis broke in 2002 — the Diocese of Syracuse has addressed this problem aggressively by reporting all allegations to the appropriate district attorney, ensuring that no priest with a credible allegation of abuse remains in ministry, and preventing acts of abuse through our highly successful Safe Environment Program. There are now nearly 40,000 individuals trained in child sexual abuse prevention as well as criminally background checked. We will continue to be diligent in these efforts to safeguard all children and vulnerable adults.”