Texas Bishops Announce that the Release of Names, SNAP responds
Bishops from the Catholic dioceses throughout the state of Texas announced today that they will be releasing the names of all clergy “credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors dating back from 1950 through today.”
This move is a good first step by bishops in Texas. Their immediate second step should be to reach out to local prosecuting attorneys and Attorney General Ken Paxton and actively invite an independent investigation, one that comes with with subpoena power and the ability to compel testimony under oath. As we have recently seen in Buffalo, we cannot count on church officials to release all records that they have. We recognize that the bishops hired outside investigators in their run-up to releasing the names of credibly accused priests, yet these investigators were still hired and paid by the church. History has shown that it is better to leave a full investigation to truly independent authorities.
Another critical element to this announcement is that it refers only to “credible accusations.” This, in our opinion, is a dodge. Church officials are not the arbiters of what is credible and what is not, especially since there have been many cases – including one this very week in California – where accusations deemed “not credible” actually turned out to be very real. We believe that Bishops should release all names and allow independent law enforcement officials to determine credibility.
When the bishops do release these names, we believe that each bishop should also put by each alleged predator's name the date when he or his staff first learned of the allegation against that priest. We strongly suspect most bishops have hidden these names for years. We also believe that these lists should be permanently and prominently posted on Dioceasan and parish websites and should include the current or last known address of each accused person – whether living or dead, religious order or diocesan, along with accused seminarians, bishops, nuns, brothers and lay employees.
Finally, while we support the publication of these lists, we cannot help but question the timing. This move is at best belated, at worst a distracting attempt to stave off inquiries from Texas law enforcement authorities. The fact remains that bishops have had the power to make these lists public for years. We are glad that public pressure has risen to the point where bishops felt compelled to take this step today. We hope that this pressure also compels law enforcement officials to follow in the footsteps of Pennsylvania and Michigan in launching an aggressive investigation.
CONTACT: Lisa Kendzior ([email protected], 817-773-5907), Paul Petersen ([email protected], 972-569-0995), Michael Norris ([email protected], 713-855-9178), Patti Waller Koo ([email protected], 956-648-7385), Carol Midboe ([email protected])
(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)