Two Decades Later, Catholic Bishops Still Breaking Their Most Important Promise

Adam Horowitz Law [Fort Lauderdale, FL]

October 31, 2023

By Adam Horowitz Law

At one end of the spectrum, generally speaking, there’s SafeSport. After just six years in operation, it now lists more than 1,900 child molesters in its disciplinary database. SafeSport deals with abuse cases in Olympic-related sports down to the grassroots level — a scope that covers more than 11 million athletes. At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), which promised to set up a public database of abusive preachers almost a year and a half ago but has yet to name even one.

In between are most US Catholic bishops. As a general rule, bishops whose dioceses are in states where victims have some legal rights have posted names of child molesting clerics on their websites. But for the most part, prelates whose dioceses are in states where victims have FEW legal rights are still not providing the names of predatory clergy, sometimes even clerics who have admitted guilt or been convicted in court.

What makes this refusal to be honest so galling and so problematic is that for at least 20+ years, virtually every US Catholic bishop has promised, time and time again, to be ‘open and transparent’ when it comes to abuse. In fact, that phrase and that promise are enshrined in what bishops claim is their first-ever binding national abuse policy (“The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” more often called the Dallas Charter.) It’s also included in virtually every diocese’s own local abuse policy. And it’s bandied about loosely and liberally by almost every church official whenever the topic of abuse is discussed. But it’s a promise more often honored in the breach.

More than a dozen Catholic bishops steadfastly refuse to post on their web pages the names of – and helpful information about – priests, nuns, bishops, brothers, monks, and seminarians who are proven, admitted, or credibly accused child molesters. It’s important to note that most of these recalcitrant men have headed dioceses for years. They’ve had ample time to do what’s right, honor their promises, name their predators, and abide by the church’s national abuse policy (which supposedly mandates ‘openness’ and ‘transparency’ with abuse and cover-up cases).

Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski, for instance, became the top official there in 2010. His colleague in Orlando, Bishop John Noonan, was tapped to lead that diocese in 2010. Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito of Palm Beach has been at the helm of that diocese for two whole decades, and Venice Bishop Frank J. Dewane has been in charge there for more than 15 years.

So few, if any, of these prelates can claim ‘I just got here. I haven’t had time to post predators’ names.’ Barbarito hails from Brooklyn and was promoted to the Ogdensburg Diocese. Dewane was ordained in Green Bay. Wenski attended seminary in the New York City Archdiocese. Bishops in each of these places have posted their predators’ names on church websites.

Even when bishops do post and update their ‘credibly accused’ clerics lists, most of them do so quietly. Several weeks ago, Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas added two more clerics to his list of those against whom abuse reports have been ‘substantiated.’ They are Fr. Francis ‘Lery’ Wendling and Fr. Robert Aiduk. Both are deceased.

But as best we at Horowitz Law can tell, Naumann notified no one of these new names. He squandered an opportunity to show that he cares about kids and victims. Worse, he betrayed his flock, to which he’s pledged – over and over – to be honest and forthcoming about abuse. A few months ago, we explained the importance of naming predators even if they are deceased.

More recently, we’ve explained why it’s especially egregious that the San Francisco Archdiocese refuses to disclose its sources of predator priests. But in our view, it’s especially important that the Portland, Maine Diocese ‘come clean’ now about its child molesting clerics. The legislature there has opened its first ‘window’ during which anyone who was sexually violated as a youngster by anyone can file a civil lawsuit. So, Maine victims have an opportunity now to seek justice, healing, closure, and prevention by ‘outing’ those who hurt them in court.

Still, stepping forward and acknowledging one’s childhood betrayal is tough. It’s slightly less daunting, though, when you know that others have reported abuse by your perpetrator. Maine Catholic officials could provide this kind of important validation to victims of its predatory priests. All it would take is posting a list of offenders on church websites. But Portland Bishop Robert Deeley refuses to do so. There are all kinds of excuses for not posting predators’ names. 

  • “He’s dead and can’t defend himself.” 
  • “He wasn’t ordained here.” 
  • “He’s already on other church accused lists.” 
  • “He abused in other states but not here.”

None of these, in our view, are justifiable. In fairness, a bishop must deal with a number of issues when deciding what to disclose about predator priests. But if a bishop is sincere, he’ll reject the available excuses and side with those advocating transparency and sensitivity. 

We at Horowitz Law join with the advocates, victims, and organizations who say that the most accurate and thorough public lists of proven, admitted, and credibly accused child molesting clerics are the most effective for healing survivors and preventing abuses. Here is also a shout-out to brave victims and advocates in the Mennonite church who maintain a database of abusive clergy and officials in that denomination.

Finally, please help us spread the word about those Catholic officials who still refuse to disclose their predators – after decades of scandals and subsequent pledges to do better. Aside from the five mentioned above, as of 9/23, according to, these ‘holdouts’ are:

  • Baker, OR – Bishop Liam Cary
  • Grand Island NE – Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt
  • Grand Rapids MI – Bishop David Walkowiak
  • Honolulu, HI – Bishop Clarence Silva
  • Kalamazoo, MI – Bishop Edward M Lohse
  • Laredo, TX – Bishop James Tamayo
  • Military Archdiocese – Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio
  • Saint Thomas VI – Bishop Jerome Feudjio
  • San Francisco, CA – Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone
  • Worcester, MA – Bishop Robert McManus

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.