SNAP ‘appalled’ by Worcester Diocese abuse report that doesn’t name accused priests

Worcester Telegram & Gazette [Worcester MA]

February 7, 2023

By Marco Cartolano

An advocacy group for survivors of sexual abuse by priests has condemned the Diocese of Worcester’s updated report on cleric abuse throughout the diocese’s history because it does not name accused clerics.

In a news release, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said the diocese and Bishop Robert J. McManus’ practice of not naming priests leaves uncertainty in parishioners.

“[U]ntil hierarchs like Bishop McManus ‘come clean’ about all the perpetrators in their dioceses – bishops, priests, and deacons – parishioners can only look up from the pews to the altar and wonder if the mass celebrants may be a threat to their children,” the statement reads.

The recent report is an update to a 2004 document by then-Bishop Daniel P. Reilly. The new report cites 209 total allegations made against clergy since the establishment of the diocese in 1950. Of those claims, 173 were deemed “credible,” or substantiated by the diocese.

The report says just one of those allegations involves abuse that took place since 1998, with most instances taking place between the 1960s and 1980s.

Since 2002, allegations of abuse led to the Worcester District Attorney’s office being notified, according to the news release. Following the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the diocese also established a committee to review all concerns of abuse of minors and advise the diocese.

The diocese has credited the adoption of “stranger danger” education for children and employees being trained to identify signs of abuse and to report cases for the drop in allegations.

In its statement, SNAP said that limiting the beginning of the report to the establishment of the diocese in 1950 creates an incomplete count that does not account for earlier allegations of cleric abuse in diocese territory.

The organization also said that survivors tend to come forward decades after they were allegedly abused.

“Science tells us that the average age at the time of reporting child sexual abuse is around 52 years,” the statement said. “What does that mean? Very simply, it is quite likely that we have not yet heard from those assaulted after 1990, and may not hear from them for many years.”

On the refusal to name clerics, SNAP said the diocese is showing a lack of concern for survivors. The organization notes that other dioceses have provided such lists.

Other Catholic dioceses which have published such lists include the Archdiocese of Boston, and the dioceses in Providence, Springfield and Fall River.

In the report, McManus said he does not believe publishing a list would be helpful and added that the diocese publishes and distributes information on every priest who is placed on administrative leave due to a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, or who is laicized, on its website.

McManus said publishing of a list of all credibly accused priests could constitute a public branding of guilt outside of the law. In response, SNAP called for McManus to publish records that may have prevented prosecution prior to 2002.