A Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania has released the names of 51 former employees and volunteers ― both priests and lay leaders ― who were credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct in cases that date as far back as 1944.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Erie, Pennsylvania, published the names of 34 clergy members accused of abuse on its website Friday. The diocese also decided to include the names of 17 accused lay members, a step that advocates say distinguishes this list from similar ones published by other Catholic dioceses around the country.
The people on the Erie diocese’s list were accused of actions ranging from providing pornography to minors to sexually assaulting children. The allegations were corroborated by secular legal trials, canon law trials, self-admission, or threshold evidence, according to the diocese.
“It is not possible for us to monitor all the people on the list,” he said in a statement on Friday. “This is an important step in helping the public become aware of information that is important for the community’s well-being.”
“Some are concerned that publicizing these names will open old wounds,” Persico added. “Very importantly, we are actually publishing the names in the hope of helping the victims/survivors move one step closer to healing those same wounds. It is important they know they are not alone.”
The website lists the accused people’s names, cities of residence, and in some instances, whether they received any sort of punishment for the alleged crimes ― from being dismissed from the clergy to being sent to jail.
The accused are all former employees or volunteers of either the diocese or one of its affiliated agencies. Twenty-one of the priests and two of the lay members on the list have died, The Associated Press reports.
One of the deceased clergy members on the list is Bishop Alfred Watson, who served as a leader of the diocese until the early 1980s. The list claims Watson “failed to act to stop abuse which was credibly reported to him.”
The Diocese of Erie is one of six Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses subpoenaed for an investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office in September 2016. The office is investigating whether Catholic officials failed to properly handle abuse allegations over the decades. A state grand jury is expected to release the investigation’s findings as early as May, according to PennLive.
“We do not know when the grand jury report will be forthcoming, but I am sure it will be a sobering moment for all of us,” Persico said.
Along with the publishing a list of those accused, the Erie diocese said it is streamlining how abuse allegations are handled and increasing the clearances employees or volunteers need to work with children.
About 25 percent of American Catholic dioceses have published lists with the names of credibly accused priests, according to the survivors’ advocacy group BishopAccountability.org.
Just this March, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo released its own list of 42 suspected pedophile priests.
Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, said adding lay members to the list is an unusual step.
“There are various ways the dioceses reduce the number on their list, so increasing the number by including laypeople is a positive step and might be unique in these lists,” McKiernan told the AP.