Diocese of Charlotte Due to Release Names Soon as Debunked Cliches Are Bandied About by Catholic Officials
Church leaders in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, announced in May that they would release a list of “credibly accused” clergy by the end of the year. Yet when talking about the impending release, the diocese’s current Vicar General continues to rely on disingenuous troupes, stating that the abuse of children by priests is a “thing of the past.”
Vicar General Patrick Winslow of the Diocese of Charlotte refers to clergy inflicted harm as a “thing of the past" in a recent interview. However, we believe when he is deliberately deflecting attention away from an ongoing problem whose roots have never been addressed by the Church. This is especially true considering his predecessor was found to be credibly accused of sexual misconduct with adults last month, and another Charlotte cleric was put on administrative leave just days ago after allegations of child sexual abuse were made against him.
A man in Fr. Winslow’s position can do much good, or much harm. His pronouncement, we fear, contributes to harm. Calling the clergy abuse scandal a “thing of the past” is a debunked myth that Catholic bishops and leaders have trotted out time and again since the Boston Scandal in 2002. Fr. Winslow should stop repeating these myths and instead look to the facts:
- The average age for an abuse survivor to come forward and make a report is 52. This means that reports are now beginning to crest for the 1980s time frame and that it will take many more years to understand the full extent of this tragedy. If these reporting trends hold, that means abuse occurring in Charlotte today will not be reported by victims for decades.
- In the past two months, SNAP has tracked mainstream media releases where priests in 25 states have been arrested, incarcerated or put on probation for sexually abusing children or consuming or making child pornography, undermining the argument that the problem is all “in the past.”
- In the past two months, by monitoring press reports, SNAP has identified upwards of 50 violations of the Bishop's "Dallas Charter." That the Charter is still being violated today, fifteen years after its adoption, shows that neither it nor tools like review boards are the bulwark against abuse that Catholic officials have promised.
Charlotte is well behind the curve with its list; nearly 150 dioceses have already named abusers. When Catholic officials do release their list publicly, we hope that it will contain not just the names, but also photos and work histories of all the clerics included on it. In addition, it should not just contain the names of diocesan priests and deacons, but also those of religious order and extern clergy, as well as brothers, nuns, seminarians, lay staff and volunteers who have been accused of abuse. This information is critical to helping inform communities and protect the vulnerable, especially as a recent AP investigation revealed that unmonitored perpetrators continue to find opportunities to live and work around children.
When the list finally is released, we also hope that it brings comfort and healing to survivors who see their perpetrator listed, and that survivors whose abuser was not named will be sure to come forward and report to police and prosecutors immediately.
(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)