Syracuse Diocese releases names of accused priests

By Greg Mason
December 3, 2018

A stained-glass window inside a Catholic church in the Utica area.

Felix R. Colosimo

James F. Quinn

H. Charles Sewall

Robert Kloster

William Lorenz

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has released the names of 57 clergy members who have been accused of child sexual abuse dating back 70 years.

Of the 57, the diocese identified 37 with credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them. The other 20 had claims of child sexual abuse made against them after their deaths, but no claims were made against them while they were alive, according to the diocese. The lists were published Monday morning on the websites for the diocese and its newspaper, the Catholic Sun.

Approximately 750 clergy members have ministered in the Syracuse Diocese since 1950, according to the diocese. The diocese covers Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego counties.

In a letter released Saturday announcing his decision to release the lists, Bishop Robert J. Cunningham said there is no priest in active ministry in the diocese with a credible complaint of child sexual abuse. Any allegations, he said, have been decades old.

“Over the years, I have explained that there are individuals who have been harmed who wish to have all of the names published and others who have explicitly asked to not have the name of their abuser made public,” Cunningham’s letter read. “In order to respect their wishes, the name of an abuser was publicly confirmed only if the victim wished to make it known. Upon serious reflection and prayer, I have concluded that this practice has become a roadblock to moving our local church forward.”

Local ties

The diocese’s lists did not include where each individual served or was assigned during their careers. But the O-D independently determined that at least 18 priests included on the list had ties to the Utica area or Oneida County.

They are: Robert F. Bogan, Roger Bowen, Daniel W. Casey Jr., Felix R. Colosimo, Thomas F. Guyder, Donald J. Hebert, David J. Jutton, Robert J. Kloster, Steven J. Litz Jr., William A. Lorenz, Edward C. Madore, Chester A. Misercola, Thomas E. Neary, Albert J. Proud, James F. Quinn, Robert A. Ours, H. Charles Sewall and Jerome F. Weber.

Explore further: Utica resident among priests accused of child sex abuse

Some — including Sewall, Lorenz, and Jutton — had ties to the local Notre Dame schools. The others worked in a variety of local parishes throughout the region.

Various online and archival sources suggest another four priests on the lists also may have ties to the area, but that could not immediately be verified: John H. Donovan, Edmund J. Durr, Luke V. Gallager and Bernard A. Gartska.

A diocese spokeswoman said official confirmation of which priests had ties to Oneida County could not be proved until later this week.

The diocese established protocols under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002 specific to the handling and prevention of child sex abuse cases.

The charter spurred a memorandum of understanding with the district attorneys of all seven counties. This memorandum requires the diocese to report any allegations to those offices before beginning a canonical review process involving a Diocesan Review Board of lay professionals — another product of the charter.

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said the diocese has given his office a list of Oneida County-area priests in the past, but never the full list, which his office received last week.

“I commend them for releasing the names,” McNamara said. “I think from the public’s standpoint, I think they should know what’s going on behind the scenes with the diocese. They have been very cooperative with my office throughout my entire 12 years as district attorney.”

McNamara said his office has no relevant cases under investigation at this time. Of the more recent allegations his office has investigated, the district attorney said the defendants have been deceased or the claim exceeded the statute of limitations.

‘Peace and healing’

If a district attorney’s office cannot pursue criminal charges, the allegations are then investigated by the diocese, said Chancellor/Director of Communications Danielle Cummings. Following the investigation, the Diocesan Review Board then recommends to the bishop if the allegations are credible.

Allegations are determined to be credible if they meet one or more of the following thresholds, according to the diocese:

• The allegations are natural, reasonable, plausible and probable.

• Corroborated with evidence or another source.

• Acknowledged/admitted to by the accused.

Cummings said certain priests on the lists asked to be laicized — voluntarily dispensed from their clerical obligations, with their ties to the diocese severed — before investigators found credibility against them. Others, as part of this canonical process, were either dismissed or removed from priestly ministry. To be removed from priestly ministry means that while the individual remains a priest in spirit, they cannot function as a priest, identify as a priest or wear clerical attire.

In his letter, Cunningham predicted the release of the names would “cause pain for some victims, families of the accused, friends and parishioners.”

“It is my fervent hope and prayer that this effort will bring some peace and healing to those who have been directly harmed and to all members of our community of faith,” he wrote.

Cummings said the reactions have varied depending on the parish community. She said the diocese also contacted victims who did not want the names released in the past prior to the publication of the lists.

Moving forward, Cummings said the diocese will announce if credible allegations of child abuse are found against a member of the clergy in the future, adding that the list will remain public and the diocese would then add to it.

“For some, I know when it was announced that the bishop would make the names public, there was a standing ovation. For others, there was silence,” Cummings said. “I think the general sentiment is it’s so sad, but it’s so good that we have the list out. They appreciate the fact that the bishop released the list.”

The diocese, Cummings said, has made “tremendous progress” since 2002 with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, assuring that the diocese “will continue that work to make sure this chapter of the church never, ever repeats itself.”

“It’s important, and I hope if there are still people in our community who have been harmed to know that this is an opportunity to come forward,” Cummings said. “We know people reach healing when they come forward. ... We are committed to this and we are committed to keeping our environment safe.”



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