Release of Names Is a Good Start
Roman Catholic church officials are doing the right thing in preparing to release a list of names of priests and deacons “credibly accused” of sexually abusing children in West Virginia. It is a good start toward repairing the church’s damaged relationship with its flock in the Mountain State.
It is unfortunate that the decision regarding West Virginia had to come after the release this past summer of a Pennsylvania grand jury report alleging that hundreds of “predator priests” victimized children in that state. Some may wonder whether that was the catalyst that convinced church officials to act in our state.
It also is troubling that the action came only after the former head of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, ex-Bishop Michael Bransfield, retired from his post. Church officials have said allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults are being investigated.
After Bransfield’s departure, the diocese was placed under the supervision of Archbishop William E. Lori, of Baltimore. It was he who made the announcement Wednesday. “The trust of the people has been badly damaged. Disclosing the names of all those credibly accused of abuse is a critical step toward repairing that broken trust,” Lori said.
According to the diocese, it will release the names of priests and deacons “credibly accused of child sexual abuse” since 1950, which is as far back as church records go. Diocese officials noted the list will not include the names of any priests currently in the ministry.
Bryan Minor, who handles administrative affairs for the diocese, is compiling the list.
As he pointed out, it will show the church is “open and honest” about the problem. It also will give those victimized in the past “the opportunity to come forward” if they have not done so already.
But for the church to appear as open and honest as officials hope, there should be no holds barred in the process. For example, why limit the list to those accused of sexual misdeeds involving children? What about those who victimized adults?
And what about allegations in other states that some church officials who did not engage in abuse themselves helped cover for priests who did? Did that happen in West Virginia?
Good for Lori and others involved in the decision to provide the list. But it is only a start. It simply cannot be viewed as an end.