Catholic religious orders must come clean about abusive clergy

Chicago Sun-Times

May 10, 2021

By CST Editorial Board

Despite public pressure, some orders still resist telling the full truth about sexual abuse allegations, as the Sun-Times’ Robert Herguth has reported.

A clerical sex abuse scandal has rocked the Catholic Church for decades now, and to our way of thinking, full disclosure is the only way for the church to put the scandal completely to rest.

Every independent religious order must follow the lead of the rest of the Church and come clean about abusive priests in their ranks.

A number of those independent orders — among them the Jesuits and Carmelites — have made the only correct moral and ethical choice. They now publicly disclose the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of abusing minors. But other independent orders have stubbornly resisted full disclosure of the details regarding abusive clergy, as the Sun-Times’ Robert Herguth has reported in a recent investigative series.

Take, as one example, the Marist Brothers, who run Marist High School on Chicago’s Southwest Side. The order, as Herguth reported Sunday, kept abuse allegations against a clergy member, Brother Robert Ryan, secret for years while moving him from school to school across the country. Ryan, lawsuits allege, abused minors at every assignment, including students attending Marist in the 1970s.

At Marist, Ryan’s “sexual abuse of minor boys worsened in both frequency and intensity . . . and he began to engage in more violent conduct, such as anal rape and sodomy,” according to one lawsuit.

The Marists never informed police or parents about the abuse allegations. Nor has the order ever made public Ryan’s name, or the name of any other Marist clergy who have been credibly accused of abuse.

The Marists are not alone. Other orders that have declined to release the names of allegedly abusive clergy include the Augustinians, who run Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox; the Dominicans, who operate Fenwick High School in Oak Park. and the Passionists, who formerly served Immaculate Conception parish on the Far Northwest Side and ran the church school.

Cardinal Blase Cupich’s office has for several years collected information on allegedly abusive priests from the religious orders. But the Archdiocese of Chicago has so far left it up to the orders to decide whether or not to publicly release that information.

We hope that will change, given a pledge by the archdiocese to disclose the names of abusive clergy.

“We have been in discussions with religious orders about how their members, under their jurisdiction and control, who are credibly accused, are to be publicly listed,” an archdiocese spokesman wrote in a statement to WTTW following its recent coverage of the Sun-Times reporting.

Full disclosure and transparency are the only way to fully restore the moral authority of the church and the well-being of those who have been abused by its clergy.