‘Cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions’

Je­suit prov­inces re­lease names of ac­cused abusers

Texarkana Gazette - - RELIGION/STATE - By Jim Sal­ter

“Car­ing for these sur­vivors—and pre­vent­ing any such fu­ture events—must be our fo­cus as we move for­ward.” —U.S. Cen­tral and South­ern Pro­vin­cial Ronald Mercier

ST. LOUIS—Two Ro­man Catholic Je­suit prov­inces that cover nearly half the U.S. re­leased the names Fri­day of more than 150 priests and other min­istry lead­ers who were found to have “cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions” of sex­ual abuse made against them dat­ing to the 1950s.

Je­suits West, which cov­ers 10 west­ern states, said its in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion found cred­i­ble al­le­ga­tions against 111 priests, broth­ers or priests in train­ing who were con­nected to it dat­ing back to 1950. No one on the list is in­volved in pub­lic min­istry any longer, it said.

Hours ear­lier, the Je­suits U.S. Cen­tral and South­ern Prov­ince, which cov­ers 13 states along with Puerto Rico and the Cen­tral Amer­i­can coun­try of Belize, re­leased the names of 42 men who had ties to the prov­ince go­ing back to 1955. It said four are still mem­bers of the prov­ince but are not ac­tive in min­istry and live in su­per­vised hous­ing.

Many of the men on the two lists have died, and oth­ers have been dis­missed of or­di­na­tion, of­fi­cials said. Most of the men on the lists were priests.

A third prov­ince that cov­ers sev­eral Mid­west­ern states, the Mid­west Prov­ince, is due to an­nounce its own find­ings on Dec. 17.

The Je­suits are a Catholic or­der that in­cludes more than 16,000 men world­wide. Je­suits also op­er­ate sev­eral high schools and univer­si­ties, in­clud­ing St. Louis Univer­sity and Mar­quette Univer­sity. Je­suits take vows of poverty, chastity and obe­di­ence, and many also take a vow of al­le­giance to the Pope.

The Je­suits have pre­vi­ously set­tled law­suits across the coun­try, in­clud­ing a $166 mil­lion set­tle­ment in­volv­ing about 500 abuse claims in Ore­gon in 2011, which was one of the largest set­tle­ments in­volv­ing clergy abuse al­le­ga­tions.

U.S. Cen­tral and South­ern Pro­vin­cial Ronald Mercier, who heads the U.S. Cen­tral and South­ern Prov­ince, said the “storm” fac­ing the Catholic church must be con­fronted with trans­parency.

“Words can­not pos­si­bly suf­fice to ex­press our sor­row and shame for what oc­curred, our prom­ise of prayers for heal­ing, and our com­mit­ment to work with them,” Mercier said in a state­ment. “Car­ing for these sur­vivors—and pre­vent­ing any such fu­ture events—must be our fo­cus as we move for­ward.”

Je­suits West Pro­vin­cial Scott San­tarosa apol­o­gized on be­half of the prov­ince.

“It is in­con­ceiv­able that some­one en­trusted with the pas­toral care of a child could be ca­pa­ble of some­thing so harm­ful,” San­tarosa said in a news re­lease. “Yet, trag­i­cally, this is a part of our Je­suit his­tory, a legacy we can­not ig­nore.”

Jeff An­der­son, a St. Paul, Min­nesota-based at­tor­ney who spe­cial­izes in clergy abuse law­suits, said pub­lish­ing the lists was the “right thing to do,” and it em­pow­ers vic­tims to both come for­ward and move ahead in their lives.

“To a sur­vivor who has been abused by one of these peo­ple, it helps them re­al­ize, ‘I’m not the only one, I’m not alone,’” An­der­son said. “It can in­spire them to get help, to share the se­cret, and to find a bet­ter way of life.”

David Clo­hessy of the Sur­vivors Net­work of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, urged the Je­suits to “ex­plain ex­actly when each of these al­le­ga­tions was deemed cred­i­ble. That way Catholics will know just how many months, years or decades church of­fi­cials have kept these men and their crimes hid­den.”

Cases of sex­ual abuse by priests and other re­li­gious lead­ers have come un­der in­creased scru­tiny since Au­gust, when a grand jury re­port in Penn­syl­va­nia de­tailed decades of abuse and cover-up in six dio­ce­ses. The re­port al­leged that more than 1,000 chil­dren were abused over sev­eral years by about 300 priests.

The re­port led to new ex­am­i­na­tions in sev­eral dio­ce­ses, and some re­newed law en­force­ment scru­tiny.

Pope Fran­cis has con­vened a sum­mit for Feb. 21-24 at the Vat­i­can to ad­dress ways to pre­vent sex­ual abuse.

The lists of names in both prov­inces were com­piled in­ter­nally, but both say they have hired a con­sult­ing firm to per­form an in­de­pen­dent re­view in the spring.

The Je­suits U.S. Cen­tral and South­ern Prov­ince cov­ers Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Ge­or­gia, south­ern Illi­nois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sippi, Mis­souri, New Mex­ico, Texas, Ten­nessee and Ok­la­homa, along with Puerto Rico and Belize.

Je­suits West in­cludes Alaska, Ari­zona, Cal­i­for­nia, Hawaii, Idaho, Mon­tana, Ne­vada, Ore­gon, Utah, and Wash­ing­ton.

The na­tion’s other two Je­suit prov­inces, Mary­land and North­east prov­inces, are in the process of merg­ing and “agree that ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency are of the utmost im­por­tance,” Mary­land Prov­ince spokesman Michael Gabriele said.

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