Jeff Anderson: A good start; but to protect children we need names

Earlier today the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed 21 of the 37 priests named in the recent Philadelphia Grand Jury Report and accused of sexually abusing children, on administrative leave. See Archdiocese of Philadelphia press release. In addition, eight others were removed from the list for various reasons.

While we are relieved that 21 of these dangerous predators will no longer have access to children in the parishes they have been serving, we are very concerned that because 8 priests remain on the list and are left in the active ministry, children will continue to be endangered.

We understand the Archdiocese reported that “the initial independent examination of these cases (the remaining 8) found no further investigation is warranted”,  however, we would point out that the Grand Jury report emphasized in its recent report that, “the Archdiocese fails to acknowledge the seriousness of victims’
complaints when it allows accused priests to remain in active ministry.”

Given the Grand Jury’s concern, how can we trust that the other eight priests still in active ministry are safe around children—especially when the Grand Jury Report found that the Archdiocese Review Board found allegations “unsubstantiated” even when there was convincing evidence that the allegations were true? Clearly, the right thing to do is report all 38 of the reported and accused molesting priests to law enforcement immediately, and remove them from active ministry.

In addition, it is a major concern that the Archdiocese has not released the names of the 21 priests.  The Archdiocese not only has a civic and moral responsibility to make these 21 names public, but to also make an extensive effort to reach out to any victims of these 21 priests.  Indeed, there are likely many victims who could be suffering in silence and shame, and for them, and the safety of other children, making these names public is critically important.

Finally, one must ask why it has taken so long for the Archdiocese to take this action to place these predator priests on administrative leave.  And, why didn’t the Archdiocese either take action immediately when the priest was first credibly accused and report to law enforcement, or at a minimum take immediate action upon the release of the Grand Jury Report this January?

Incredibly, it seems very much like their concern was more for the priests and their own reputations, than the children and families of their congregations.