Los Angeles Archdiocese Names Those Accused
of Abuse Since 1930
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
February 18, 2004
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's
largest, released a report yesterday identifying 244 priests,
brothers, deacons and seminarians who have been accused of
sexually abusing a total of 656 minors since 1930.
The Los Angeles Archdiocese is the third of the 195 American
dioceses to disclose the names of accused abusers, spokesmen
for both the national bishops conference and victims advocacy
The Archdiocese of Baltimore was the first to do so, posting
names on its Web site in 2002, and the Diocese of Tucson was
"It was a painful decision to reach," said Tod
M. Tamberg, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles,
"but we wanted to provide our people with the fullest
accounting that we can of what we know. If this helps other
victims to come forward and to approach the church with information,
than that painful decision has been well taken."
Naming those accused of abuse is still not accepted practice.
Next week, the church in the United States is scheduled to
release two reports on the scope and causes of what was once
a secret trauma, but neither report will disclose the identities
of those accused or even how many worked in which dioceses.
Victims of sexual abuse say that by failing to make the names
public, dioceses are continuing to cover for the abusers and
discouraging other accusers from coming forward. Many victims
said they had the courage to report their abuse only when
they realized that others had been molested by the same person.
"We certainly think it's in the public's best interest
and it is the morally responsible thing to do to put the names
out," said Paul Baier, president of Survivors First,
a victims advocacy group in Wellesley, Mass., that has compiled
a database of nearly 2,000 church officials accused of abuse.
Church officials say bishops have been reluctant to name
those accused of abuse because some have been wrongly accused,
and also because some are dead.
Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco, director of communications for
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, "Mainly
the issue is that since so many of these cases are based on
allegations that go back several decades and haven't been
proven, there's a concern about not accidentally including
people who might be innocent of the charge."
The report from Los Angeles notes that in disclosing the
names of accused priests "we walk on tender ground."
At the height of the sexual abuse scandal in 2002, the nation's
bishops pledged at their meeting in Dallas to commission two
reports, one offering statistics on the "nature and scope"
of the sexual abuse problem in the church, and the other analyzing
The statistical study is being completed by researchers at
the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. The
bishops were sent a survey that asked for information about
each reported case of abuse. All but a handful of dioceses
have complied, church officials said.
The other report, on the causes, is based on more than 100
interviews conducted by a subcommittee of the national review
board of prominent laypeople that was appointed by the bishops
in response to the scandal.
Both reports are scheduled for release on Feb. 27. CNN reported
on Monday that an early draft of the John Jay report found
that 4,450 priests had been accused of sexually abusing minors
nationwide in the past 50 years.
The number represents about 4 percent of priests to have
served in the last half-century, a far higher percentage than
previously claimed by church officials. A prominent Vatican
official, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said in 2002 that less
than 1 percent of priests were guilty of molesting minors.
The CNN report led John Jay College to release a statement
saying that it had "nothing to do with the release of
that information." The college said the numbers were
taken from a "preliminary report" done in January
and were likely to change in the final version because bishops
were still providing and amending information as recently
About half of the nation's dioceses have recently publicized
the information they supplied to the John Jay researchers,
Monsignor Maniscalco said. The Diocese of Nashville, for instance,
reported in its newspaper last week that 7 of the 378 priests
who served in the diocese from 1950 to 2002 had been "credibly
Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles went further than
most bishops in examining the problem, beginning in 1930 rather
than 1950, and in supplying the names of the those accused.
Mary Grant, a leader in the Los Angeles chapter of the Survivors
Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said in a statement
that her group's reaction could be summed up by saying: "Names
are good. Files are better."
"We in SNAP believe that if the cardinal really wants
to make a difference, he'll turn over the files about abuse
to the police and prosecutors," the statement said. "Kids
are safest when molesters are behind bars and not in churches
working with children."
The Los Angeles report reflects the impact of a California
law enacted in 2003 that lifted the statute of limitations
and allowed accusers a one-year window in which to bring civil
claims against the archdiocese, no matter how long ago the
abuse occurred. In 2003 alone, 420 incidents of abuse were
reported. Most of the accusers said they had been abused from
the early 1960's to the late 1980's.
The report counts 656 people who said they were abused by
members of the Catholic clergy or church workers.
John C. Manly, a lawyer whose firm represents more than 50
accusers in California, said, "The low figures in the
report are obviously an attempt to minimize the problem."
But Mr. Tamberg, the church spokesman in Los Angeles, said
the archdiocese would add names and numbers as more accusations
Some priests regard the naming of accused priests as a betrayal
by the bishops. In the February issue of the conservative
Catholic magazine First Things, the editor, the Rev. Richard
John Neuhaus, took Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore
to task for naming accused priests.
"He burnished his reputation by trashing the reputations
of his priests," Father Neuhaus wrote. "Some father.
Some brother. He is not alone in what he did. Other bishops
were appalled, but the rule is that bishops do not criticize
Mr. Tamberg said that Cardinal Mahony had consulted the archdiocese's
council of priests before deciding to publicize the names.
"This certainly was presented to them, and they endorsed
it," Mr. Tamberg said.