Release the Names
On Friday, August 17, days after the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report which found that hundreds of Catholic priests had abused 1,000 children in that state, Bishop Kevin Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese of Indiana vowed to release the name of every person in the diocese who has been credibly accused of abuse. Rhoades was named in the Pennsylvania report, having served as Bishop of the Harrisburg Diocese for a time, and he is presumably now ready to atone for the sins of omission he committed in the past.
Prior to this announcement from Indiana, I wrote a letter to the editor which has since been published in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel and the Notre Dame Observer, calling on the Catholic Church to proactively acknowledge the scope of this scandal, with the assumption that it extends far beyond Pennsylvania. Bishop Rhoades’ actions are a step in the right direction.
As someone who grew up in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, whose family has been members of St. Francis Xavier and St. Margaret Mary in Parkersburg, whose family has attended Parkersburg Catholic schools for multiple generations, and whose sister attended Wheeling Jesuit University, I call on Bishop Bransfield of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to follow in the footsteps of Bishop Rhoades and publicly release the names of all priests, bishops, and church officials who have ever been credibly accused of or involved in the cover-up of the abuse of children.
The people of the diocese deserve to know. Our parents and our grandparents have trusted the church with their children, and parents of young children today are now forced to make that same decision, in an environment now poisoned with doubt and distrust. To entrust our children to the leaders of the church, we need to know whether the church can still be trusted, as it is now clear that the church has not only abused our children, but has grievously abused our trust as well. Renewing trust begins with each diocese fully disclosing everything it knows about priests and officials who have been credibly accused of abuse.
When I was growing up, I was required to go to confession on a regular basis to confess my sins to a priest, and then to serve a penance. It is now time for the priests and officials of our diocese to confide their sins to their parishioners and to the public at large. If the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston forfeits this responsibility, then it forfeits our trust, and it forfeits its now-tenuous claim to moral authority.