Pennsylvania Catholic Diocese Names Former Memphis Priest in Sexual Abuse List
By Brandie Kessler and Ed Mahon
York Daily Record
August 1, 2018
The Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has released a list of more than 70 of its clergy members, one a former Memphis priest, accused of sexually abusing or having inappropriate contact with children in cases dating back decades.
Walter Emala, who died in 2008 in Baltimore, is cited on the list for allegations of inappropriate behavior, such as kissing.
Church files in the Memphis Catholic Diocese indicate decades of sexual abuse allegations against Emala dating to the 1960s in Nashville-Memphis and Baltimore dioceses. Memphis was part of the Nashville diocese prior to 1970.
Emala in 1967 was accused of taking boys on trips and sleeping with them in the nude, and at other times taking boys to adult movies. He was also accused of child abuse in the Baltimore Archdiocese.
In 2004, Emala was accused of sexual misconduct with minors at his parish near his then-Pennsylvania diocese in Harrisburg. He was reported to the district attorney's office and was warned to stay out of the Harrisburg diocese.
Current Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer has announced sweeping changes to confidentiality policies and said the names of any men accused of such crimes would be removed from any place of honor in the diocese.
The charges discussed by Gainer pertain only to the Harrisburg diocese, which covers much of central Pennsylvania.
Gainer apologized profusely for abuses that occurred over many years. He said the church was releasing a list of every allegation made in recent decades against clergy in the diocese that had not been disproven.
Gainer said that when he became bishop in 2014, the diocese began working to verify the status of priests going back to the 1940s. He said the diocese wanted to release this list before, but the state attorney general's office asked them not to, so as not to interfere with its investigation of Catholic clergy abuses across the state.
Now that a state grand jury investigation is concluding, the diocese decided the time was right to release information it had gathered about its priests.
Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office issued a statement after the diocese's news conference ended, expressing criticism for the diocese's failure to be transparent in the past.
Terry McKiernan is the president and founder of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks abuse reports.
His organization knew about 24 of the clergy members whose names were released by the diocese.
But more than 40 names were new and will be added to their database, McKiernan said. He thinks that's that's the largest number of new names his organization has added to its records based on information released by a diocese.
“It’s a major development,” McKiernan said, adding, “It really changes our understand of the Harrisburg diocese and what’s been going on there.”