Review of records, proposed release of priests’ names promising
Plans to release the names of clergy “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors, and the review of decades of Archdiocese of San Antonio records by an independent commission are positive steps in healing the pain caused by these horrendous cases.
However, fully regaining the public trust is going to take much more.
The belated move to shed light on these cases does not fully compensate for the U.S. Catholic Church’s failure to quickly and adequately address the festering criminal problems, thus allowing the victim list to grow.
This delay is important because many cases are no longer eligible for criminal prosecution as they are well beyond the statute of limitations. It is also troubling that disclosure plans do not address the naming of those who enabled the abuse or facilitated cover-ups and allowed suspected child molesters to be reassigned.
Following an Austin meeting of Texas bishops, chaired by San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, the state’s Catholic dioceses in October announced plans to release the name of clergy who have been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct with a child.
The move came on the heels of a Pennsylvania grand jury report, released in August, that found that more than 1,000 children in that state had been sexually abused by more than 300 priests over seven decades.
It is encouraging to see a concerted effort to increase accountability and transparency. Texas is home to an estimated 8.5 million Catholics and 4,000 clergy, and has 1,320 Catholic parishes.
At a press conference announcing the plans for the Archdiocese of San Antonio, García-Siller acknowledged, “Honesty and transparency will be painful and at times deeply troubling.”
“But I believe that it is the best path to healing for survivors and the only path to transformation for our church,” he added.
The increased accountability and openness on these cases are long overdue. We look forward to the release of information, scheduled at the end of January, and the next chapter in the process.
It is estimated that some 154 claims of abuse in Bexar County have never been made public. Express-News archives indicate the archdiocese had paid $6.63 million as of January 2011 to victims of sexual abuse by its priests.
St. Mary’s University President Thomas M. Mengler deserves credit for advocating for an independent lay commission.
Mengler is chairman of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities, which late this summer called on Catholic university presidents to meet with their local bishop and call for an independent commission. Mengler personally met with García-Siller in September to seek the formation of a local commission comprised of lay Catholics and non-Catholics.
Mengler is now co-chair of the commission, along with Catherine Stone, a retired appellate court justice.
Other members of that group include Meredith Chacon, a former prosecutor and director of ChildSafe; Elma Salinas Ender, a Webb County retired judge; Dr. Timothy Palomera, a sports medicine doctor; David Reilly, former director of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and former Bexar County chief juvenile probation officer; and Ronit Sherwin, CEO of the Jewish Federation of San Antonio.
We urge the other 14 dioceses in Texas to follow García-Siller’s lead and name their own independent commission, as recommended by the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
The healing process is going to take a community effort.