A Catholic Priest Famed for Chess Talent Accused of Using his Skills to Groom and Abuse Altar Boys in New York
A Catholic clergyman famed for his chess skills has been accused of using those talents to groom and abuse at least two altar boys. We applaud these brave victims for coming forward and sharing their story publicly. We hope it encourages others who were hurt to make a report of their own and start healing.
Every person who abuses children has a preferred method way of finding victims. Some become youth coaches, Boy Scout leaders, or altar boy trainers. In this case, it would appear that Fr. Bill Lombardy used teaching chess.
Many will focus on the fact that these allegations date to the 1960s, but science and data are clear that victims of sex crimes often take decades to come forward. It can be particularly difficult for survivors to make allegations against powerful and well-respected members of the community, which Fr. Lombardy certainly was. That challenge is only compounded when allegations are minimized after victims find the courage to come forward. It is part of the Catholic Bishop’s playbook to deny accusations, which reportedly is what Fr. Lombardy’s employers did when the abuse was brought to their attention while the clergyman was alive and still working as a priest.
Now that this lawsuit has been filed, we believe that Fr. Lombardy should be added to the list of accused clerics from the Archdiocese of New York. The hundreds of other priests and abusers already named in lawsuits should be added to the list as well. Cardinal Timothy Dolan should also personally visit each parish in his Archdiocese and use each and every Church publication or website to ensure parents and parishioners are aware of these names and allegations. Publicizing the accused and showing support for victims can help others who are still suffering silently to come forward. Many survivors are fearful and hurting and simply cannot speak out without an invitation and a path to do so.
Currently, the Archdiocese of New York’s list of accused clerics is woefully short. Most critically, it completely ignores abuse committed and enabled by priests from religious orders. This is hairsplitting at its worst. Order priests work all over the country and, absent notification by Diocesan officials, can quietly move elsewhere and abuse again. Catholic officials in New York know this and yet still withhold this critical information.
Thousands of perpetrators have been outed as a result of the "window to justice" opened by New York's Child Victim’s Act. A great public benefit is derived by the naming of abusers, the identification of their enablers, and the reckoning this process creates. We hope that every other state that has yet to tackle statute of limitations reform will do so in 2021, helping to uncover hidden truths and create a safer, more informed society.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)