"the 50 Year Secret" - Q&A and Reporter's Notebook
By Jay Korff
July 16, 2019
This Q&A time line begins February 13, 2019 when the Diocese of Arlington and Diocese of Richmond released their lists of priests credibly accused of child sex abuse. My questions , responses and key dates are in bold. Church answers are not in bold. My remarks are in italics. You’ll find the more questions asked the more revealing answers we got. Some sections below were edited for brevity.
Feb 13, 2019 with Diocese of Arlington
Since this was my first day on this story I quickly reached out to officials with both Dioceses and confirmed the names on the list. Our focus wasn’t on one specific priest, yet.
Question: Were there any priests moved around from one diocese to another?
Response: Since 2002 we have implemented a zero-tolerance policy in which anyone with a credible accusation of sexual abuse of a minor is permanently removed ministry. When the initial allegation is received, it is reported to law enforcement immediately. Prior to the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People in 2002 there was not a consistent standard for managing allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
Question: Where did these priests serve?
Response: For today’s announcement, we did not pull together all assignment histories. If you are looking to ask a specific question about a particular parish, I’ll look into it for you.
Question: When did the process begin?
Response: In late September, 2018. The examiners were two former FBI special agents that were contracted by the Diocese, given full access to all files and information related to clergy, and performed a thorough review to assist the Diocese in its publishing of a list of priests who are credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.
Question: How many were criminal cases?
Response: Allegations regarding Krafcik and Brooks were the only cases for which criminal charges were brought by law enforcement.
Feb 14 with Diocese of Arlington
By the next day (Feb 14) we had decided, based on information from our initial story the prior evening with Father William Reinecke abuse survivor Becky Ianni, that this narrative was worth pursuing in a longer form. Armed with a little more information, I started asking more specific questions. I additionally reached out and posed the same questions via email to officials with the Diocese of Richmond. Richmond never responded directly to any of my questions. The below responses are from Arlington.
Question: I’m being told by one of his victims that a bishop in the late 1960s-early 1970s time frame was aware that Reinecke liked boys and Reinecke was involved in inappropriate activity with boys and parents complained and instead of the Diocese confronting the issue moved Reinecke to another church. Please inquire if this was the case.
Response: Questions regarding anything prior to 1974 would be best answered by the Diocese of Richmond, as the Diocese of Arlington was established in 1974. That said: To our knowledge, all allegations of sexual abuse of minors related to Father Reinecke, predated his incardination to the Diocese of Arlington in 1974. The first allegation of sexual abuse against Father Reinecke was brought to the Diocese of Arlington in 1992 after his death.
Question: How many people accused William T. Reinecke of inappropriate behavior, at what location (I'm hearing St. Mary's Parish now the Basilica of St. Mary in Old Town Alexandria) and over how long a period of time?
Response: The number of individuals who have brought allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against priests on the Diocese of Arlington list (diocesan and religious priests) is 23.
Questions about the number of alleged victims related to priests who were reviewed by the Diocese of Richmond Review Board would be best answered by the Diocese of Richmond.
You’ll see here that Arlington declined to respond to the key question of how many people had accused Reinecke of sex abuse and deferred to Richmond. But Richmond wasn’t answering my questions. Arlington eventually answered this question three months later.
Question: I need a general time line/work history of when William Reinecke came to the Diocese of Arlington and where/when he worked in this diocese.
Here are the parishes where he was assigned or in residence:
1965-1969 - St. Mary, Alexandria
1969-1974 - St. Charles Borromeo, Arlington
1974-1975 - Our Lady of Lourdes, Arlington
1975-1979 - Queen of Apostles, Alexandria
1979- 1980 - Our Lady of Lourdes, Arlington
1980-1990 - St. Ambrose, Annandale
1990-1992 - St. James, Falls Church
Feb 15 with Diocese of Arlington
Question: I read in another published report that at the time of his death Father Reinecke was chancellor. Just trying to confirm that. And, as chancellor allegations of sex abuse would have been his responsibility to investigate. Is that the case?
Response: Father Reinecke served as chancellor of the Diocese. As a member of the chancery staff at the time, he would have potentially been involved in assessing allegations and in discussions related to allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
Question: And just to be clear. There are no complaints whatsoever in Father Reinecke's file during his tenure with the Diocese of Arlington that suggest he may have engaged in inappropriate contact with minors? Did he ever receive therapy or counseling of any kind during that time?
Response: We do not have evidence that Father Reinecke received therapy or counseling.
Question: Where any of his moves from parish to parish based on complaints leveled against him or for any suspicious activity on his part?
Response: Father Reinecke’s file does not contain evidence of allegations of sexual abuse of minors, except for what was brought to the Diocese of Arlington after 1992. The purpose of releasing the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor was to assist victims and survivors in their healing. If someone has information that indicates an allegation of this nature was brought forward prior to 1992, the Diocese would welcome the opportunity to speak with this person and understand better what may have happened.
Feb 27 with Diocese of Richmond and Diocese of Arlington officials
About two weeks have passed since my last email to church officials. In that time, the landscape of this story has expanded exponentially after landing an exclusive interview with Kelley Arnold. Arnold was an altar boy under Reinecke and was very close with him. Arnold was witness to Reinecke’s modus operandi.
I also planned a trip down to Richmond and Williamsburg to gather video and information for what would turn out to be a documentary called The 50 Year Secret.
I felt now was the time to ask much more detailed questions and to request formal, on-camera interviews with church leadership.
I should note that the responses from Arlington below are the first answers that begin to shed new light on unraveling Reinecke’s diabolical story.
I will be in Richmond tomorrow afternoon and would like to speak with someone associated with the Diocese of Richmond on camera in relation to Father William Reinecke. If Arlington would like to handle this that's fine with me as we are obviously much closer.
1-How many credible sex assault victims are associated with Father Reinecke? The Washington Post has reported three. We have spoken with a number of people who believe that number is higher.
2-Can you open his file to me so I can review it for myself?
3-Can you inquire with past leadership to see if the Bishop or anyone in leadership was aware that Reinecke was being moved due to concerns about his criminal behavior?
4-Our reporting has revealed that Father Reinecke would routinely travel, overnight, to Williamsburg, Virginia during his tenure at St. Mary with minor boys. We have an extensive on-camera interview with one of those individuals. This individual says Reinecke did this for years, dozens of trips. Was church leadership aware of this?
Was it standard operating procedure for priests to take minor children, without their parents, out of town?
When was this practice stopped?
5-In July of 1969 this individual says Reinecke took him and another boy (not named) to Puerto Rico as a celebration for all the work those boys did in cleaning up the St. Mary’s Cemetery. He says they spent a few days there and one night he witnessed Reinecke sexually abusing the other boy.
Is the church aware of this incident and/or the trip to Puerto Rico, and if so what can you tell me about it?
Was it common practice for clergy to take minor children out of the continental US without parents or a chaperone?
Has this practice since been changed?
Initial response from Richmond:
Thank you for your email. No one from the Diocese of Richmond will be available to provide an on-camera interview for you tomorrow. Since I am just receiving your email now with questions, please allow me the time to review so I can follow up with you in an appropriate manner.
The Diocese of Arlington declined our requests for an on-camera interview as well.
Since Fr. Reinecke’s death, the Diocese of Arlington has become aware of several individuals who allege that he sexually abused them as children.
There is nothing within Fr. Reinecke’s file that indicates the Diocese of Arlington had received allegations of sexual abuse of a minor while he was alive, and there is no indication that he was moved from one parish to another due to complaints of criminal behavior.
Through the testimony of victims, the Diocese is now aware that Fr. Reinecke took trips with minors that would not be permissible under today’s standards. It became evident that some victims were abused during those trips. We do not have evidence or testimony that he took any international trips with minors.
The abuse committed by Fr. Reinecke is a grave sin and horrendous crime. No person should ever be victimized, and the Church should be a place of peace and joy for all people, especially children. The Catholic Church operates very differently than it did 50 years ago and interactions between priests and minors are more controlled and limited than in the past. This is to protect both minors as well as the reputation of priests. Private trips with minors without the presence of other lay adults are not allowed. This practice, while never encouraged, was explicitly prohibited by the norms implemented after the promulgation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. Additionally, the Diocese has a comprehensive and thorough system of policies and protocols that aid in prevention of sexual abuse of minors as well as our reporting to legal authorities. These protocols include background checks for all clergy, staff and volunteers, as well as a training program that helps people identify grooming activity and other concerning behaviors.
The Diocese remains ready to assist victims of sexual abuse in their healing. As is the case of any victim of sexual abuse, Bishop Burbidge welcomes that opportunity to meet with them, hear their story and offer his pastoral care.
March 1 with Diocese of Richmond
The response from Richmond two days later was in the form of a statement. No questions were directly answered. This is their statement:
Out of respect for the privacy of survivors of abuse, we are not providing details or information that may be identifiable to them. It is their story to tell and share should they wish to do so.
As much as we wish we could turn back the clock and change the evil and atrocities that occurred in the past by clergy within Virginia, we cannot.
There will never be enough sorrow expressed to the victims who suffered and were robbed of their innocence by the men they trusted - men who were expected to be held to a higher standard but violated the sanctity of that trust.
By releasing a list of clergy names, Bishop Knestout fulfilled a promise that he made in September of 2018. It assured us no one who has been credibly accused remains in active ministry in the Diocese of Richmond to the best of our knowledge. More importantly, it was a door that was opened so all victims and their loved ones hurt by abuse could continue to heal and bring light to the damage that has been done by child sexual abuse.
The safety of children, youth and the vulnerable in the care of the diocese is of the utmost importance to us. It is our Church today.
Mandatory policies and procedures to protect minors and the vulnerable fall under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People which the Diocese of Richmond has been in compliance with since the inception of the Charter. If you are not familiar with our diocese and what we do to protect youth and the vulnerable, please visit our website: https://richmonddiocese.org/child-protection-safe-environment/
What we continue to do and remain committed to within our Diocese is to help victims of clergy sexual abuse heal from the transgressions of the past while protecting our children and others who are vulnerable today. That is our pledge and remains our promise.
Reporter Email Response to Richmond:
Thank you. But maybe I missed something.
Where are the specific answers to the questions I posed? Is there another attachment that I missed? If so, please re-send that attachment.
If for some reason, and you certainly have the right, you choose to not answer my specific questions you as an institution should have the courage to say you are not answering my questions. And if you are not going to provide someone to talk with me about this issue, on-camera, then you need to say that as well.
I have bent over backwards to be transparent with your organization probably more so than most reporters. I expect at least professional clarity on your part.
If you don't specifically say you are not answering my questions I can only assume that not confirming your non-answers is a clear avoidance of my questions which I will make abundantly clear in my reporting.
Again, if I've somehow missed your responses to my questions forgive me.
To be clear, a number of my questions pertain to overall church policy (allowing clergy to go on overnight trips to minors with additional adult supervision) and have nothing to do with a specific person or case and therefore should be answered.
The Diocese of Richmond did not respond to this email.
March 8 with Diocese of Arlington
Question: During the time that Reinecke was Chancellor and took in priest sex abuse complaints, how many clergy were found to have credible child sex abuse allegations leveled against them?
Fr. Reinecke became Chancellor in 1979 and held that office until his death in 1992. Fr. Reinecke had significant administrative authority and worked closely with the bishop at the time.
Fr. Reinecke was involved in discussions concerning allegations but was never specifically designated as a point person for allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
There is no indication that Fr. Reinecke withheld information about other priests accused of abuse from diocesan decision makers.
This question was not directly answered.
April 8 with Diocese of Arlington
At this point in our story-gathering process I was getting close to wrapping up interviews and starting to write. Invariably, questions both routine and more in-depth came up. At this point I’m starting to ask questions I’d asked before in hopes I would get more detailed answers.
Why is there so little information next to priests credibly accused of sex abuse on your list?
Why aren’t parishes listed, number and general dates of accusations and what was done about allegations?
Diocese of Richmond will say it’s to protect survivors. Survivors tell us that is absurd. Survivors of priest sex abuse tell me these lists are helpful to some but the incomplete nature of the lists is also harmful. What’s the Diocese response to the charge that these lists are incomplete?
Why not put out as much information as possible on these lists?
And, in Reinecke’s case, why is only the most basic of information listed by his name when the Diocese knows his case was high profile in terms of media coverage in the 1990s?
Response: We are aware of situations where providing more detailed information would make it possible for a victim to be identified. Not all victim-survivors are public about their abuse, and as such, we have to be sensitive to the widest spectrum of experiences and desires from victims. For parishioners who reach out and ask if a priest on the list ever served at their parish or school, we are responding individually and providing that information. This approach was taken to balance the need for transparency with the privacy of victims. We believe this is the best way to ensure that the faithful who need to know this information have it, without unintentionally revealing information that might be used to identify a victim.
There are also those who question whether the Diocese and those on the review board are qualified to decide the credibility of a sex abuse allegation. How has the Diocese responded to this concern?
Is there something you can tell me about the individuals on this review board that can give the public a sense as to their qualifications in determining such matters?
Here is a link to the current membership of the Diocesan Review Board, which illustrates their credibility: https://www.arlingtondiocese.org/Child-Protection/Review-Board/
The professional experience of those who have served on the Review Board ranges from counselors, therapists, medical doctors, educators, attorneys, former law enforcement, etc. Their insight assists in the review of diocesan records as well as information that may be provided by law enforcement, the complainant, or others. The Diocese establishes credibility in three ways, only one of which is through the Diocesan Review Board. The other ways are from a determination of guilt in a criminal court, civil court or by an ecclesiastical process, or by an admission of guilt by the accused.
Since 2002, all allegations received by the Diocese have been forwarded to law enforcement. Our experience is that most accusations brought to the attention of law enforcement do not result in criminal charges. It is often the case that law enforcement will not provide the Diocese with evidence collected or detailed reports written during their investigations that might assist the Review Board in its deliberations. As such, as a measure of due diligence and respect for victims of childhood clergy sexual abuse, we utilize the professional experience of members of the laity. When other means of determining credibility have been inconclusive, the Diocesan Review Board is an invaluable asset for the Bishop in determining credibility and recommending the next course of action for priests who are credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. Most victim-survivors we work with or provide support for appreciate the fact that the laity are involved in reviewing these cases.
Since a number of priests on your list have NA within their listing and/or blank narratives it’s hard to get an exact picture of what was going on and when it was going on. But it appears that the majority of priests credibly accused on your list were either contemporaries of Reinecke or served under his leadership, especially for those on the first page (Priests Incardinated to the Diocese of Arlington). Your reaction or explanation for this?
And, what is your reaction that NO ONE on your list appears to have been removed from public ministry while Reinecke was a part of the Diocese of Arlington?
Does that lead you to conclude that the Bishop at that time (and Reinecke) were possibly looking the other way, covering up or not coming down hard enough on abusive priests?
During his time in leadership (say from 1979 until his passing) exactly how many priests were, and were not found to be, credibly accused of inappropriate sexual behavior?
How many priests (like Father Terry Specht) have been accused but allegations not found credible?
The Catholic Church in the U.S. established a system for determining credibility in 2002 with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which required each diocese to have a Review Board.
Decisions regarding whether a priest is removed from ministry is the responsibility of a bishop, and would not have been decided by Fr. Reinecke. Not all priests were permanently removed from ministry as would be the mandate under today’s standards. When the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People went into effect in 2002 it marked a major change, in that it required priests against whom a single credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor had been made to be removed from ministry.
Here are some key points we would hope are included in the story as it relates to victims:
Bishop Burbidge personally meets with victims of clergy sexual abuse, both in private meetings as well as group sessions.
The Diocese offers counseling and pastoral support to victims of sexual abuse, most of which were not abused by a member of the clergy or anyone who worked for the Diocese.
Since 2005, we have hosted 87 prayer services and Masses for those impacted by sexual abuse, with more than 4000 attendees.
We host an annual retreat for victims and their families.
There are 40 support groups for victims and families, which are led by professional therapists and counselors.
As it relates to protection children and young people:
-we have conducted 63,000 background checks
-we have administered Safe Environment training for 425,000 young people
-we have administered Safe Environment training for 60,875 adults
There are 96 parish/school/ministry representatives that assist the Office of Child Protection.
All of this information is available at ArlingtonDiocese.org/ChildProtection.
May 20 with Diocese of Richmond
We heard a lot of explosion language from one of our interview subjects and wanted to give officials from both dioceses the opportunity to respond. Below is my email to Richmond. I sent them many quotes from Tom Doyle. For brevity, we are posting only two of his quotes.
As we near the completion of our documentary on Father William Reinecke we are circling back with you so you can adequately respond to comments made by someone we interviewed.
We fully realize that the only response you have given to the widespread scope of our story is to issue a press release that essentially answers none of our questions. That certainly is your choice.
But it's incumbent upon as to give you an opportunity to respond to recent statements made by a person we have interviewed. His name is Tom Doyle. I assume you know who he is. If not, here's some more information on him.
Tom Doyle was an active priest from 1970-2004. He served as a US Air Force Chaplain for nearly 20 years. He is also a court certified expert on canon law having worked at an attorney for the Catholic Church in the Vatican Embassy in the 1980s. Doyle now testifies on behalf of abuse survivors and consults for states and nations investigated priest sex abuse.
So here are some of his quotes. Please feel free to answer any or all of them. I will include your responses, or lack thereof, in my story.
1-His position on how the Catholic Church as an institution has historically responded to priest sex abuse allegations: “The number one priority through all of this has been the image, the prestige, the power of the institutional church. And by that, I mean the Bishops themselves. That’s what was number one. Not the kids or the victims, who are the kids or their parents. But number one was keep it quiet, keep it secret.”
2-“Somewhere along the line someone was too afraid to report him(Father Reinecke). And a lot of that fear came from the brainwashing by the Catholic Church. He’s a priest. You can’t turn him in. And I even wonder had somebody turned him in way back then if they would have even been believed. We won’t know that. We will never know that.”
May 27 response from Diocese of Richmond
Thank you for your email.
As Bishop Knestout said in his February 2019 letter, we voluntarily released the names of credibly accused clergy out to fulfill promises of transparency and accountability. At the same time, though, we simply must do all we can to preserve the privacy of the survivors; this is a promise we make to these individuals when they come forward with their abuse claims. While we must hold these credibly accused individuals accountable for their actions, we also must protect survivors from re-living their abuse through the Diocese’s disclosures. For that reason, we are not releasing specific details about when the abuse might have taken place. We feel strongly this is our duty.
May 27 with Diocese of Arlington
Officials with the Diocese of Arlington declined to respond to a similar email I sent to them seeking comment based on what Tom Doyle had said. But I did ask them a final series of questions and some of their answers, listed below, revealed NEW INFORMATION. We are listing those specific, revelatory questions and answers.
Question 4-How many victims, in terms of an exact number, is the Diocese aware of in William Reinecke's case? For clarity purposes, I'm not asking for "a few" or "some" or "several" as an answer. I'm asking for an exact number.
Response: We are aware of eight people that have come forward and identified themselves, alleging abuse by Fr. Reinecke. The Diocese remains ready to speak with victims or others who have not yet come forward and now want to tell their story. We welcome the chance to assist them in their healing and offer pastoral support.
This answer was, in my professional estimation, a breakthrough. When we first reached out the Arlington in February they referred this question to Richmond and declined to answer. Now, for the time first, they are giving us an exact number.
Question 5-When did each accuser in Reinecke's case come forward and how long did it take in each case to determine if the allegation was credible?
Question 6-How did the Diocese respond to each of these accusations?
Response to Questions 5 and 6 (this was answered in April):
All information in his file relating to allegations of sexual abuse or other concerns regarding minors was received after his death in 1992. This includes reports from accusers.
Of the individuals who came forward alleging abuse by Fr. Reinecke after his death, only one pursued an official determination of credibility by the diocesan Review Board.
For those who have made allegations of sexual abuse by Fr. Reinecke, the Diocese remains ready to assist with ongoing pastoral support and counseling services.
This answer is also very, very important because it shows that ONLY ONE person chose to appear before the Review Board to see if their allegation against Reinecke would be deemed credible.
Question 7-Were there any cases on your list in which the Diocese, upon hearing an allegation, did not report this potentially criminal act to the civil authorities? If there are any cases, which ones?
Response: Since 2002, all allegations of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy are reported to legal authorities immediately. There are instances prior to 2002, where it is not clear from our records whether allegations were reported in a timely manner. Information related to all allegations has been provided to the Virginia Attorney General.
So, this answer leads one to wonder what exactly were church officials with allegations of criminal behavior against clergy doing prior to 2002?
Question 8-What is the Diocese of Arlington's position on states trying to drop statute of limitations in civil child sex abuse cases? Is the Diocese of Arlington willing to lobby for such changes?
Response: There already is no statute of limitations in Virginia for felony criminal charges. The Diocese of Arlington would support eliminating the statute of limitations for misdemeanor criminal charges relating to the sexual abuse of children. With regard to civil cases, in 2014, the Diocese supported a reasonable increase in the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for such cases is now 20 years. Statutes of limitations exist so that cases can no longer be brought when key parties and witnesses are deceased or are unable to recall relevant facts, and other evidence is no longer available. This is a simple matter of fairness that impacts not only the Church, but any party involved in civil litigation of any type.
The Diocese recently lobbied, through the Virginia Catholic Conference, to ensure that clergy are included on the list of mandated reporters for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Question 9-Since your list was released, how many people have come forward with separate allegations of abuse against someone on the list or a member of the clergy who is not on the list?
Response: Since publishing the list of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor in the Diocese of Arlington on February 13, 2019, one new allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest of our Diocese have been reported to us. It was immediately forwarded to civil authorities. Pending clearance from law enforcement to do so, we are not able to comment further on this allegation.