Our View: Disclose Accused Priests, 04-14-09

Herald News
April 14, 2009

It is inconsistent to have a policy of publicly identifying priests removed from active ministry while investigated on sex abuse accusations and also a policy to protect the identities of those who have been credibly accused in the past.

It's time for the Archdiocese of Boston to rectify this.

Three advocacy groups for clergy sex-abuse victims have appealed to Cardinal Sean O'Malley to release the names of all credibly accused priests, saying it is a matter of public safety.

A GateHouse Media newspaper made a similar request to the Catholic archdiocese last fall while preparing a report on the whereabouts of dozens of suspended and defrocked priests and was denied.

We agree with Massachusetts-based, a group that tracks abuse cases, that these names should have been released when the charges were levied.

"Every day that goes by without a list, kids are at risk," said David Clohessy, founder of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

Hundreds of priests in the archdiocese were pulled from parishes and dropped out of sight as the clergy sex abuse scandal reached its height in 2002. Among them were dozens who had been assigned to South Shore churches. Many cases against these men weren't prosecuted solely because the statute of limitations had expired.

A report found many local priests who were suspended on suspicion of sex abuse still live in the area.

"The Archdiocese is working diligently to create and maintain safe environments in its churches and schools," spokeswoman Kelly Lynch said at the time.

But by keeping these names hidden, they prevent communities from being able to make informed decisions about the safety of their children.

The diocese has in the past said a complete list couldn't be provided because of confidentiality rules and due-process rights for priests who were accused but not proven to be abusers.

It hasn't responded to the most recent requests for a list of names but said a revision to the church's current policy will probably be disclosed "in the coming months."

We hope, as the statement suggests, that Cardinal O'Malley is considering making more information public about accused priests.

But we also hope that the timeframe is reconsidered.

The church was long seen as dragging its feet on issues related to sex abuse among priests and has done much to erase that conception.

Delaying this decision makes it appear as if the church is putting the community's concerns on a lower tier of importance.

And that's an unfortunate step backward.


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