(Los Angeles Times) The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has quietly added two dozen priests and brothers to its list of clergy accused of child molestation.
Though the church deems the allegations against the men credible, the archdiocese has declined to release information about the complaints, including the number of accusers, the dates of the alleged abuse and the parishes where the men worked.
The names were disclosed in a two-page report posted on the archdiocese’s website last month alongside 12,000 pages of internal records related to its handling of abuse claims.
The document was discovered recently by BishopAccountability.org, a nonprofit that researches and archives records of the Catholic abuse scandal.
The group’s president, who stumbled upon the document during a recent Google search, criticized the inconspicuous way the men were named and the lack of information provided about their cases.
“The terrible mess in the Catholic church happened because information was hidden and controlled, and that attitude is very clearly wrong,” said Terry McKiernan.
He said he was stunned to see so many new names suddenly connected to a scandal in which details and key figures have been recounted for 11 years in lawsuits, criminal probes, news articles, books and documentaries.
“The fact is that real people did these things to real children, and you don’t really understand what is happening until you have the names,” he said.
A lawyer for the archdiocese denied the church was trying to bury the list by including it in the massive release of internal abuse records. J. Michael Hennigan said the archdiocese informed child protective services and law enforcement years ago about men on the list who were still alive. He noted that the 24 men accused were never sued in court or charged criminally and said the archdiocese was under no requirement to name them in the first place.
“It’s making something that was a voluntary disclosure into a cover-up. It’s just not true,” Hennigan said.
L.A. County district attorney’s officials said they were reviewing the archdiocese’s recent release of records, including the updated list of accused abusers..
The dearth of information about 22 priests and two brothers is in contrast to the archdiocese’s approach to identifying accused abusers in the mid-2000s.
At that time, the archdiocese named 236 priests and provided the dates of the abuse alleged, the number of accusers and in most cases, a chronology of how church leaders dealt with their cases. The newly posted report is dated October 2008, but the online file shows it was created in 2013.
Hennigan said the church drew up the report in 2008 after a comprehensive review of personnel files found additional abuse allegations that fit the archdiocese’s standard for disclosure of being “public or credible.” He said the 24 men never previously identified as alleged abusers in court or in the news media were included alongside 26 other priests who had been publicly accused but inadvertently left off previous lists.
He said the church posted the report on its website in October 2008. It remained online for about a month before it was removed for reasons that are now unclear, he said.
Hennigan said that more than four years later, as church officials prepared for the large-scale release of abuse records, they looked for the report and could not find it in their computer system. He said a church official then located a paper copy in the archdiocese’s office and re-scanned it for posting.
During the month-long period in 2008 when the archdiocese says the document was online, it appears to have attracted no notice in the circle of victim advocates and plaintiffs’ lawyers who closely track the church’s disclosures.
“I just saw this for the first time today,” said Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk who has worked for more than a decade as a consultant to plaintiffs and prosecutors in Catholic sex abuse cases. In a letter to Archbishop Jose Gomez this week, McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org commended the archdiocese for releasing the names, something that other church jurisdictions have refused to do. But, he said, the timing of the release raised questions, and the information provided was inadequate.
“It is essential for everyone to know the nature of the allegations against these priests and brothers, because some of them may still pose a danger to children in Los Angeles, elsewhere in the United States, and in other countries,” McKiernan wrote.
Anthony DeMarco, an attorney for abuse victims, said he was unaware of the list before this week, but not surprised that it contained unfamiliar names.
“On a regular basis I get calls from people who were abused by priests over the years and those priests were never part of prior litigation,” he said. “More needs to be known about each one of these folks.”
None of the 24 men named are currently working as ministers in the archdiocese, according to the report. The status of 11 of the men is listed as “Left Archdiocese” or “Unknown.” Five are dead, three have been defrocked, three are on inactive leave, one was excommunicated and one is described by the list as “Canonically suspended.”
Because the church has not provided any information, it is impossible to determine the severity of the complaints against them or whether they have been exonerated by church investigations.
One priest, whom the archdiocese lists as on inactive leave, is working as a counselor in Northern California. News clippings indicate he left the priesthood decades ago. Another priest is working in a diocese in the Philippines, according to a government directory.
One man named, a defrocked priest who is now married with children, said the archdiocese had not informed him they were identifying him as an alleged abuser. In a brief conversation, the former priest declined to answer questions about whether he should have been on the list, as well as what the allegations against him were and whether they had merit.
“I don’t think I should be speaking to a reporter about the nature of all this,” he said. “My life is happy and peaceful at this point.”