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Baltimore archdiocese posts list of accused priests

Posting list of accused priests is response to request by survivors, Baltimore archdiocese says.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore has posted a list of dozens of priests and religious brothers accused of sexual abuse in a move church officials say came from listening to feedback from abuse survivors.

All of the names had previously been disclosed by the church, in most cases years ago. But activists say having them in one place can help encourage victims to come forward — and help expose the scope of abuse.

"We've wanted it a long time," said David Lorenz, Maryland director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "We've asked every diocese around the country to do it."

The list, posted on the archdiocese website, includes the names of 71 clergymen about whom church officials have received what they call "credible" accusations during the priest's lifetime.

Archdiocese spokesman Sean Caine said the list was posted in January, but church officials didn't announce it because the list included no new information.

The decision to post the names was "a response to what we've heard from survivors," Caine said. "It's something we've been working on for a while."

Included are 57 names that were first posted on the archdiocese website in 2002 under Cardinal William H. Keeler, eight months after a Boston Globe investigation exposed sexual abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese. That list was eventually taken down.

Also posted on the new list are 14 names of priests accused after 2002.

When Keeler released the original list in 2002, he said the abuse of children by priests was "the spiritual equivalent of murder."

"My fellow bishops and I must respond to the violence already visited on our children by saying we are sorry," Keeler wrote in a letter to Catholic households.

"At times, we have let our fears of scandal override the need for the kind of openness that helps prevent abuse. In the past, we sometimes have responded to victims and their families as adversaries, not as suffering members of the Church. I am deeply sorry for the harm done to children entrusted to our care."

Keeler's move sparked controversy among Baltimore priests at the time.

Thomas J. Reese, a Jesuit priest and senior analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, said such lists can be "a very scary proposition for priests," pointing out that in most instances the priest has not been convicted of a crime.

"No matter how often you say 'accused,'" Reese said, "as far as the public is concerned, these people are guilty."

But he added that across the country, victims of abuse have experienced the pain of denial by the church.

"That, for many, was just as harmful as the abuse itself," he said. "To have their abuse acknowledged and recognized by the church and apologized for is extremely important for them in their healing process."

Reese said the move by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, who is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, could influence other bishops.

"A lot of bishops are really reluctant to do this," Reese said. "It's very significant because Archbishop Lori is very highly respected by other bishops, so if he did it, it certainly would give other bishops the courage to follow his example."

Only a fraction of Catholic dioceses have published the names of accused priests. Some lists have been required as part of a lawsuit, said Terry McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, a Massachusetts-based watchdog group that tracks data on clergy sexual abuse.

"I personally feel that it's valuable that they are putting these names out there and taking some ownership," McKiernan said. "In all fairness, Baltimore is to be commended for just doing it, not doing it because it they have to."

Still, McKiernan said the way the list is formatted makes it difficult for website users to view all the details released.

Caine says church officials are open to suggestions to make the online list more user-friendly.

The Oscar-winning movie "Spotlight," which chronicled the Boston Globe's investigation, has renewed interest in such lists, McKiernan said.

According to BishopAccountability.org, about 30 dioceses nationwide — out of more than 170 — have published lists of priests accused of sexual abuse. McKiernan says the lists vary, with some offering more detail than others.

This month, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown in Pennsylvania posted a list of 27 priests and a deacon accused of sexual abuse. A Pennsylvania grand jury issued a 147-page report about the diocese in March, finding that hundreds of children within the diocese had been abused over four decades.

In January, the Archdiocese of Seattle posted a list naming 77 members of the clergy accused of sexual abuse.

Lorenz of SNAP said it can be freeing for victims who have not come forward to know that others also were abused by a priest.

"One of the reasons victims don't come forward is they feel they're the only ones," he said. "They feel utterly and completely alone."

While the Baltimore names have been disclosed in individual news releases over the years, having them in one place may help a victim who has moved away and did not pay attention to local news, Lorenz said.

However, some say the archdiocese list is incomplete. It does not include the names of priests about whom accusations surfaced after their deaths.

Under a long-standing policy, the Archdiocese of Baltimore does not publicly name priests accused after their deaths because they are unable to respond to the allegations, Caine said. Officials still report the allegations to civil authorities and offer counseling assistance in those cases, he said.

Archdiocese officials did issue a news release in August confirming they had received multiple allegations against Monsignor Joseph Davies, who died in 1992. After Davies' death, the archdiocese told an abuse survivor that officials had heard a number of allegations against Davies. In August, SNAP shared the communications with the media.

"At that point, the Archdiocese felt it was appropriate to confirm to the media that the Archdiocese had received multiple allegations against Davies," Caine said in an email to The Baltimore Sun.

Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed to this article.

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