Los Angeles Times

Leaders of U.S. Catholic orders ask for names of abusers


NEW YORK — The umbrella organizati­on of Roman Catholic religious orders in the U.S. is suggesting that its members consider voluntaril­y identifyin­g priests accused of sexual abuse, opening up what could be a major new chapter in the church’s long-running abuse and cover-up saga.

The invitation to transparen­cy by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, which represents about a third of the 37,000 Catholic priests in the U.S., is significan­t because religious orders such as the Franciscan­s and Benedictin­es have largely flown under the radar during the two-decade-old scandal.

In the U.S., scrutiny has focused on abuse by diocesan priests and cover-ups by their bishops.

Anticipati­ng that the spotlight will shift amid new investigat­ions in a dozen states, the conference will formally invite its 120-member orders to consider voluntaril­y publishing the names of men with an “establishe­d allegation” against them, said the Rev. Gerard McGlone, who is responsibl­e for child protection at the conference.

“This will be coming shortly,” he told AP, confirming what he said in a panel discussion at Georgetown University this week.

The conference cannot require or even formally recommend that religious institutes release names. But the invitation to do so is neverthele­ss significan­t, since the organizati­on’s mission is to be a resource of best practices for its members.

The conference represents more than 16,000 priests and brothers of religious congregati­ons like the Salesians, Jesuits and Christian Brothers, who are known for their work running schools and providing services to the poor and vulnerable. Around the world, members of religious orders have been implicated in large numbers in the abuse scandal, precisely because they have had greatest access to potential young victims, said Terence McKiernan, co-founder of BishopAcco­untability.org, an online resource of documentat­ion about the scandal.

“The orders have a miserable record, but the impression in the U.S. is that they have a better record. That impression is entirely wrong,” said McKiernan, who has focused much of his research on religious orders.

While there have been a few major legal cases against U.S. congregati­ons, religious orders in general have largely “gotten a free pass,” McKiernan said.

Orders are divided into provinces that cross state and diocesan lines and can fall through the cracks when dioceses are under the spotlight by law enforcemen­t or the media, McKiernan said.

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