March 1, 2019
By Danae King
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Columbus released a list Friday of 34 clergy members who were “credibly accused” of sexually abusing children. The latest abuse case on the list occurred more than 25 years ago.
The diocese said that it reviewed files on almost 2,000 clergy members who served in the diocese since it was founded in 1868.
“I share with the faithful of our diocese sorrow, sadness, and anger over such behavior,” Columbus Bishop Frederick Campbell, said in a letter posted on the diocese website with the list. “I apologize to all victims for the abuse suffered, and hope that these disclosures will help bring healing to all victims and their families.”
The diocese’s list does not include when the accusations were made, when the alleged abuse occurred or where the clergy members served in the diocese. Of the 34 clergymen, 21 were listed as deceased.
None of the abuse cases involving clergy who are still living happened within Ohio’s statute of limitations for prosecution, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said in a statement.
In response to the list’s release, six victim advocates said it likely wasn’t comprehensive and pointed to media reports, which show at least two more recent cases.
“I’m aware of priests who have abused who aren’t on the list,” said Carol Zamonski, leader of the Central Ohio Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
Columbus is just the latest of 112 dioceses nationwide that have released similar lists, said Terry McKiernan, co-president of Bishop Accountability, an organization that works to track allegations of abuse by Catholic officials.
An increase in releases began soon after an August grand jury report released by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro detailed widespread child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in that state.
Ohio lawmakers have said in the past that the state’s home-rule laws put sexual-abuse investigations in the hands of county prosecutors. Joe Grace, Shapiro’s spokesman, said 15 other state attorneys general have publicly acknowledged investigations into clergy abuse and the U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a nationwide investigation.
“This is a matter of concern and discussion between me and my senior staff,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said of the fact that his office has no jurisdiction over clergy sexual-abuse cases. “Speaking as a voice for victims, the lack of information does nothing to bring closure to people who may have been abused by a trusted authority figure,” he said.
O’Brien said in a statement that the Columbus Diocese has regularly reported allegations to police, children services agencies and the prosecutor’s office since 2002.
George Jones, spokesman for the diocese, said the list had not been cross-checked with lists released by other Ohio dioceses, but the diocese plans to do so.
Campbell, who declined to speak with The Dispatch on Friday, said in the letter that he hoped the release of the information would “restore the confidence of all faithful in the church and in its clergy.”
Bishop Accountability co-president Anne Barrett Doyle said releasing lists of perpetrators is helpful to victims.
“Transparency is the ultimate act of compassion,” she said. “When you release a name of an accused priest, even if we already know the name, it provides instant validation to the victims and families.”
Still, the lists are almost never complete.
“Almost every time a bishop releases a list of those credibly accused there are omissions,” said Donna Doucette, executive director of Voice of the Faithful, a Boston-based organization that supports victims of priest sexual abuse. ”… It’s just been too many years with too many people to ever say it’s complete.”
SNAP Midwest Regional Leader Judy Jones said in a statement that the release is an important first step in protecting children, preventing future cases of abuse and healing survivors, but more information needs to be included.
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