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Los Angeles Archdiocese Names Those Accused of Abuse Since 1930

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 groups said.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore was the first to do so, posting names on its Web site in 2002, and the Diocese of Tucson was the second.

"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 causes.

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 as Friday.

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 accused."

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 were reported.

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 other bishops."

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.

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests