By East Texas Catholic staff and Catholic News Service reports
In fulfilling his pledge made in October, on Jan. 31 Bishop Curtis Guillory, SVD, DD, shared with the Catholic faithful of the Diocese of Beaumont a letter and the names of the clergy who have credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
In the letter he said, “We can never fully make right the heinous sins and crimes that have hurt so many. We can remain completely committed to being a part of the healing process and working with all our energy to protect our children from sexual abuse. To the victims and their families I apologize for the severe damage in all aspects of your lives imposed by this sinful and criminal abuse.” (Bishop Guillory’s full letter is on page 2.)
In addition to the Diocese of Beaumont, the other 14 dioceses also shared names. In total 278 individual clerics have credible allegations in Texas. The Diocese of Beaumont’s list has 13 names. At this time in the Diocese of Beaumont, these credible allegations involve 33 victims. The statewide disclosure removed duplication of clerics who appear on multiple diocesan lists and non-clergy, such as religious brothers.
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio repeatedly called the release “the just and right thing to do,” and that it is a “move forward in building a healthier community, a healthier society.”
The lists were compiled separately by each individual diocese. Many dioceses worked in cooperation with diocesan lay review boards, with some also working with independent consultants.
In his letter Bishop Guillory said, “Nearly 16 years ago, I established a Diocesan Review Board that reviews and assesses the credibility of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and makes recommendations to me. On that board are lay men and women who are not employees of the diocese and who are competent in fields such as psychiatry, judiciary, law enforcement and social service.”
The release includes the Galveston-Houston and San Antonio archdioceses and the Austin, Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler and Victoria dioceses. The oldest diocese is Galveston-Houston, established in 1847, with San Antonio founded next in 1874. Since 1950 nine additional dioceses have been established, resulting in a total of 15 dioceses. Laredo is the most recent to be established, that being in 2000. The Diocese of Beaumont was established in 1966.
Each diocese worked with the general understanding that a “credible allegation” is one that, after reviewing reasonably available and relevant information, and in consultation with diocesan lay review boards and/or other professionals, the diocese has reason to believe is true.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, extended his “deepest regret for the harm that has been done,” a sentiment echoed by bishops interviewed by the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
“In multiple incidents over the years, the church and her ministers failed to protect the most vulnerable souls entrusted to our care,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “There is no excuse for the actions of those credibly accused of such sins against the human person.”
While each diocese prepared its list independently, Archbishop Garcia-Siller said the goal of releasing the lists on the same day was significant and was done in consideration of all those affected by the abuse including abuse survivors, family members, friends and parishioners.
“When survivors see these names, it hurts them,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.
The Diocese of Beaumont has contact information for its Victim Assistance Coordinator on its website and on page 18 of this issue of the East Texas Catholic.
Archbishop Garcia-Siller recognized Pope Francis’ call for accompaniment, or walking with those within and outside of the church, especially clergy abuse survivors.
“We need to let other voices help us, and that is accompaniment. It needs to be something alive, it is not just a check mark. We need to hear the voices and see how we can better serve the people,” Archbishop Garcia-Siller said.
“Accompaniment doesn’t end with listening. We must embrace the recommendations … and always be open about the relationship with victims and survivors. We must be vigilant and work toward a change in the culture and in the dominant culture,” he said.
There are more than 8.5 million Catholics in Texas, and more than 1,320 parishes in the 15 dioceses.
Older dioceses used 1950 as the starting point for its lists to be consistent with the 2004 study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York that surveyed the nature and scope of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons. The study covered the period of 1950 to 2002. Newer dioceses such as the Beaumont Diocese used the date of their establishment. For the Beaumont Diocese that is 1966
The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which was founded in 2012 and has its chancery in Houston, joined the 15 dioceses in the release of credibly accused clergy. While it had not received any allegations of clergy abuse of a minor, the ordinariate said in a statement it would publicly disclose names should any credible allegations be received.
The Jan. 31 release comes weeks before Pope Francis convenes a gathering of leaders of the world’s bishops’ conferences Feb. 21-24 at the Vatican. Cardinal DiNardo and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, USCCB vice president and formerly bishop of San Antonio, will attend the meeting.