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Names of Six Clerical Perpetrators Identified in Lawsuits in the Diocese of Rochester

This week, the names of six accused child predators (link to release) who worked in the Diocese of Rochester, New York were publicly identified for the first time.

We learned these names because brave survivors came forward, called our offices, and filed claims under the NY Child Victims Act. On the behalf of the survivors, we made these names public.

However, the Diocese of Rochester would rather their secrets remain hidden.

In fact, Rochester Bishop Matano and his lawyers went so far as to ask the bankruptcy court to seal the names of the accused, even if the accused are still working with children. (link https://www.democratandchronicle.com/story/news/2021/04/21/rochester-catholic-diocese-barred-shielding-identities-priests/7106382002/)

That move should not have come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the child sex abuse and cover-up crisis in the Diocese of Rochester. Diocese officials there have a long history of using overt tactics to shame and silence victims—as well as to attempt to elicit sympathy for the credibly accused.

In 2004, then-Rochester Bishop Matthew Clark said, “Certainly our prayers are with the alleged victim as it is a terrible tragedy when someone is sexually abused. Nevertheless, it is equally tragic when someone is falsely identified and accused of an unspeakable act.” (link: https://www.bishop-accountability.org/usccb/natureandscope/dioceses/reports/rochesterny-rpt.pdf)

Since this tone-deaf and insensitive remark—meant to shame survivors, insinuating that they are opportunistic liars and enemies of priests and faithful Catholics—at least 328 child sex abuse lawsuits have been filed against priests and others in the Diocese of Rochester (link: https://www.andersonadvocates.com/new-york-sexual-abuse/new-york-child-victims-act-dashboard/ ).

Yet, with all of these cases moving forward, NOT ONCE has Bishop Matano had to announce that one of his priests was falsely accused. Not once.

How many survivors were shamed into silence forever, because a bishop was more concerned with protecting potential predators and his own reputation than caring for the innocent children and wounded survivors in his flock?

The latest six names that Matano wanted to keep secret are:

  1. Msgr. Thomas F. Connors
  2. Fr. William J. Devreaux
  3. Fr. L. John “Jack” Hedges
  4. Msgr. William J. Naughton
  5. Charles O’Connell (choir teacher)
  6. Br. William B. Reiser, C.S.C.

Making these names public as well as the truth behind the allegations is not only a matter of right and wrong, it is a matter of public safety­ – and that is much more vital than protecting reputations or mitigating damages in court. Survivors should be believed – and children, parents and parishioners should be armed with the knowledge of whether or not a predator may be in their midst. It’s time for the truth and it’s time for the Diocese of Rochester to come clean and begin their own journey of reconciliation. It’s time for survivors to be heard.

(The deadline to come forward if you were sexually abused as a child in the Diocese of Rochester is August 13, 2021.)