Following in the wake of an explosive grand jury report that exposed widespread sexual abuse throughout Pennsylvania’s Catholic Church, an alliance of Catholic dioceses in Texas has announced plans to release the names of clergy members who have received credible sexual assault and abuse allegations, according to the Brownsville Herald.
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All 15 of Texas’ Catholic Dioceses are expected to participate, publishing details from their private Church records that go back to the 1950s. The lists will be published on January 31, 2019. “An accurate accounting of the past is necessary for us to move forward with integrity,” according to Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Brownsville Diocese. “We want to ensure that everything we do contributes to healing, transparency and accountability.”
The Dioceses worked together to make their decision, announcing the plan on Wednesday, October 10, 2018. In a press conference, a group of Texas bishops said releasing the names of accused clergy members was part of their “ongoing work to protect children from sexual abuse and promote healing and a restoration of trust in the Church.”
Texas’ 15 Catholic dioceses are Galveston-Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Amarillo, Beaumont, Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Laredo, Lubbock, San Angelo, Tyler and Victoria.
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“This is an action in response to the faithful’s call for greater accountability and transparency,” says Archbishop Daniel DiNardo. A Pew poll of American Catholics found that only 30% supported the way Pope Francis has handled the newest sexual abuse scandal.
“Every bishop in our state has made a statement expressing his concern for all who have been hurt,” Archbishop DiNardo continued, “and I want to express my personal sorrow at such fundamental violations of trust that have happened.”
It’s not surprising that Texas’ Catholic leaders have chosen to release the names of pedophile priests. Catholics across the country have been rocked by a new wave of sexual assault allegations. The revival of over 1,000 credible sexual abuse claims via a Pennsylvania grand jury report placed a strong spotlight back on the Church’s handling of abuse complaints.
The allegations contained within the report have risen to the highest ranks of America’s Catholic leadership, coming to touch Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington. In their report, jurors raise credible evidence that Cardinal Wuerl, during his tenure as the Bishop of Pittsburgh, turned a blind eye to multiple sexual abusers, allowing dangerous pedophiles to remain in the ministry even after sexual assault allegations had been leveled against them.
The announced actions of the Texas bishops, who have committed to reviewing the secret records held by their dioceses for credible allegations of child abuse, must be seen in this context. Alongside searching through their own internal records, the Diocese have asked anyone who was abused in the past to step forward. “If there is someone out there who has been abused,” said Beaumont Diocese Bishop Curtis Guillory, “we ask him or her to come forward.”
Texas is home to an estimated 8.5 million Catholics and 1,320 Catholic parishes, 12News reports. Taking a full inventory of every clergy member accused of sexual abuse will be a major task. Some dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, have sought out outside counsel to help ensure that their report is as thorough and complete as possible. Officials say the lists will be updated after their publication, as new information becomes available.