The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has released the names of every priest, living and deceased, who has had a credible allegation of sexually abusing a minor. Bishop Robert Cunningham says he made the difficult decision in hopes of bringing healing to the victims and the church.
At the same time, he says realizes the list will cause pain for some victims who preferred their abuser’s names not be made public. But the Bishop says after serious reflection and prayer, he felt that became a roadblock to moving the church forward.
"I think there's a lot of people who feel by releasing the names, it's a more transparent reality. Some people will be consoled to know that their parish priest is not on the list. We have nobody in active ministry who has a credible allegation against them."
There are 57 clergy in all, 38 of whom are deceased. The rest have been removed from all ministry. The allegations go back 70 years, and claims against 20 on the list were made after they died. Cunningham says there was another consideration in making the names public.
"A number of people in the diocese told me that they would hope they could hear it from me directly, rather than through the media or from a government agency. They thought it would be better if it came from the bishop."
Cunningham says he also didn’t want to leave this unfinished work for his successor. He estimates about a third of the dioceses in the U.S. have released such a list. Cunningham hopes this transparency begins to regain trust in younger people who might have been born into the catholic faith, but lost respect for the church as it mismanaged the fallout from sexual abuse scandal. He knows younger people might not have the same regard for the church as an institution, but support its service mission.
"In our food pantries, in our schools, in our hospitals, for the homeless, for the immigrants. They tell me this, and I hope many of them will be engaged in these efforts, which are really the church reaching out and serving people who are in need."
Cunningham says the Catholic Church and society have learned a lot about how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse over the past three decades. He says the diocese continues to perform background checks, and educate clergy, staff, and volunteers more than any other organization.
The message from Bishop Cunningham and the list of clergy with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor can be found here.