Fall River Diocese Releases Names of Clergy Accused of Abuse
By Amanda Hoskins
January 7, 2021
FALL RIVER, Mass. (WJAR) — The Diocese of Fall River released the names of 75 credibly or publicly accused of sexually abusing a minor Thursday after a long review of internal records.
Some of the records and accusations date back 70 years, with most cases involving conduct that happened between the 1960s and 1980, according to a release from the diocese.
"We did it for the victims, the survivors to bring a sense of justice and healing for them," said Bishop Edgar da Cunha.
In an interview with NBC 10 News Thursday, he admitted it took longer than he originally anticipated to thoroughly review records and files.
"My hope is by doing this will help the church, the survivors, their families, help our parishioners and move forward," said the bishop.
Of the 75 people on the list, 44 were priests within the diocese. 28 of them have since died, according to the release.
A majority of the people have been named before, but not all.
In addition, the diocese named clergy who had been named in other places for abuse, but that the Diocese of Fall River did not have enough information to make its own determination about.
Naming those clergy on the list is something the Executive Director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said he appreciates.
"Hair splitting over who had jurisdiction over these clerics is not valuable when it comes to informing the public about dangerous men, an exhaustive list of abusers and their information is," wrote SNAP Executive Director Zach Hiner in a release.
He said the list is long overdue, adding the diocese must do extensive outreach to ensure victims are informed.
The bishop and his team did not take the work lightly of investigating and naming the accused, according to attorney for the diocese, Michael Carroll.
He explained there were five phases, including review and recommendations by various groups of people, including outside lawyers and investigators.
Carrol said the standard of proof came in part from cannon and civil law. He said they based it on the standard for probable cause, can a reasonable person find the accusation credible based on the facts.
"It's been a long process and we worked on it every week throughout the time period that we've been working on it and getting advice and that was after the files had all been collected," said Carroll.
The bishop said the church is sorry and has changed, explaining the various new procedures the diocese has taken for more oversight.
"We have revamped our whole safe environment and department," explained the Bishop. "My hope is that all these things will help the church and our parishioners and our people so all of these horrible things that have happened in the past will never happen again."
The leader of the Massachusetts SNAP group, Dave O'Regan, said he is happy the diocese released the list, explaining that it can help with closure for victims.
"If they can go to the parish or the diocese and look at the credibly accused priests, they see the name there that, 'Oh, I wasn't alone, it wasn't just me'," said O'Regan.
O'Regan said that may also encourage them to speak up, which can help some people in healing. He said he found that talking and helping others through the grief helps him deal with the pain.
If you are interested in learning more about SNAP click here.
The Diocese of Fall River has a Victim Assistance Coordinator who can help with referrals for therapy and other support for survivors.
Bishop da Cunha said the work is not over despite the release of the list. He said they will continue to add to the list if necessary as they learn more.