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Rhoades to release names of priests

August 18, 2018

Though he did not commit to a timetable, the bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend announced Friday he would compile and release the names of local priests “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors.

Likely a first for the diocese, the action by the Rev. Kevin C. Rhoades comes in response to the release this week of a voluminous grand jury report detailing abuse by more than 300 Roman Catholic clerics across Pennsylvania. 

The details revealed in the more-than-900-page document are “equally appalling and heartbreaking,” Rhoades said Friday, offering victims and their families sympathy and support.

“The church failed you. For this I apologize,” he said.

The next step, Rhoades said, is to highlight the names of the abusive priests.   

“Victims need to see names made public, so these victims can begin the process of healing,” the bishop said during a news conference at the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center in downtown Fort Wayne.

The grand jury investigated abuse cases in Pennsylvania during the last 70 years. Its report found more than 300 Roman Catholic clerics had been accused of sexually abusing more than 1,000 minors in six dioceses, including the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Rhoades was Harrisburg’s bishop from 2004 to 2009, just before being named to head the local diocese in late 2009 and installed as bishop in early 2010.

The report says while in Harrisburg, Rhoades handled two cases of priests alleged to have committed abuse. Both cases were years before he was named bishop, and the men had already been removed from the priesthood, the report says. 

Since coming to Fort Wayne, Rhoades said, he has had three priests removed from the priesthood because of abuse allegations. He said he thought there would be about 16 other names on the list from before his time as bishop. Rhoades did not name names.

But he said he would meet Tuesday with a diocesan board to get the process going. He said he hoped the list could be released within days or weeks.

Should the local diocese release the names, it would be among only a half-dozen dioceses to do so nationwide, Rhoades said.

Among them is the Harrisburg diocese, which last week, before the release of the grand jury’s report, listed 170 priests and seminarians who had been accused.

That action became controversial because priests were named even if the accusation had not been ruled credible, according to news reports.    

In the past, Rhoades said, credibly accused priests could be restricted from ministry with children or removed from the priestly ranks. But alleged offenses might not be reported to police, an action he said he now recommends.

Or, even if reported, the statute of limitations might have passed, so the general public might never know.

At one point in time, Rhoades said, he might not have been in favor of releasing priests’ names to the public.

But after seeing the grand jury report, “Now I would,” Rhoades said.

“The protection of children has to be the No. 1 priority,” he said. “I will never, under my watch, never, never allow a priest who has abused a minor continue in ministry.”  

rsalter@jg.net

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