A national organization that tracks priests accused of sexually abusing minors believes the Cleveland Catholic Diocese is hiding names of accused sex offenders, and the group is demanding that they be released to the public. The Boston-based group, BishopAccountability.org, said the Cleveland diocese has the worst record in the nation for disclosing identities of priests accused of sexual abuse.
“It has the biggest gap between the number of accused priests it admits to and the number of accused priests whose names are public,” said the group’s co-director, Anne Barrett Doyle, who is scheduled to address the issue at 11 a.m. today in front of the diocese’s headquarters at St. John Cathedral downtown.
“It’s curious why this diocese is getting away with it. It’s immoral. It’s terrifying, and the people of Cleveland shouldn’t stand for it.”
Doyle intends to hand-deliver a letter to Bishop Richard Lennon today, demanding that he release the names of accused pedophiles. The disclosures are necessary for the emotional and psychological healing of victims, she said.
BishopAccountability.org, citing newspaper stories, court records and police reports, has identified on its website 45 Cleveland-area Catholic clerics publicly accused of sexual offenses over the last 50 years. But in 2004, Bishop Anthony Pilla, Lennon’s predecessor, admitted that there had been sex abuse claims against 118 clergymen in the diocese since 1950.
“This means that at least 73 names are still secret,” Doyle wrote in her letter. “Who are these clerics? Who is watching them? Are they still on the payroll?”
Tayek said “to the best of our knowledge, no one against whom there is reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing — no matter when it may have occurred — is currently in active ministry in the Diocese of Cleveland.”
Pilla’s disclosure followed a seven-month investigation in 2002 by the office of Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason, which found that 1,000 people over a 50-year span had been sexually abused by 496 diocesan employees — of whom 145 were priests. One priest and six diocesan employees were indicted. Most of the cases were beyond the statute of limitations for prosecution, said Mason. Following the indictments, the media asked Mason to release files from the investigation, but lawyers for the diocese argued against it, saying Ohio law prohibits public disclosure of grand jury evidence. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Brian Corrigan ruled that the files remain secret.
Doyle continues to challenge that ruling today. She said judges and prosecutors throughout the nation have begun releasing names of accused priests, “but law officials in Cleveland are not demanding accountability of the church and the public’s right to know,” she said. Doyle’s group and the Chicago-based Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, have been pushing bishops across the country to disclose names of accused priests, even if they have not been charged in a civil court.
“If you’re sexually abused as a child and your predator continues to wear the Roman collar, continues to say Mass and walks free, it’s very tough for victims to recover from that,” SNAP director David Clohessy said in a telephone interview Thursday.
“Almost every victim who contacts us says, ‘I just want to make sure my predator doesn’t molest anyone else,’ ” Clohessy said. Publicly exposing predators, he said, will protect others.
Doyle’s letter to Lennon says 24 dioceses nationwide have released names of suspected and confirmed child sex abusers. One of those dioceses is Toledo, which posts names on its website. “If there is a credible allegation, we make it public,” said Toledo Diocese spokeswoman Sally Oberski.