OKC Archdiocese: Delay on priests list aimed at getting it right
The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City is still working on its list of priests who have been credibly accused of sex abuse of minors.
And officials say that’s because they want to get it right.
In October 2018, archdiocesan leaders said they would publicize a list of priests and religious clergy who have been credibly accused in an effort to be transparent.
Numerous Roman Catholic districts across the country have publicly disclosed the names of accused priests in the wake of a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report that uncovered a pattern of priest sexual abuse and cover-ups in several dioceses in that state.
At that time, Diane Clay, the Oklahoma City Archdiocese's communications director, said Archbishop Paul S. Coakley had requested an internal review of priests' files in July 2018 after sexual abuse allegations were made against prominent U.S. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, then-archbishop of Washington. The archdiocese and The Oklahoman also had received an August 2018 letter from a former parishioner who questioned the status of a now-defrocked priest whom the man had accused of sexually molesting him in the 1980s.
In January, the archdiocese told the media it would disclose names of priests by Feb. 28, but at that time, Clay said the archdiocese had been asked to delay the release of the list because a law firm hired by the archdiocese had asked for more time to review more files.
At that time, Clay said the archdiocese would release the information before the end of March.
The archdiocese has not released the report, and leaders said there's a reason for the delay.
“We want the independent review and its results to be comprehensive and to provide as much information as possible to our parishioners and to the public," Michael Scaperlanda, the archdiocese's chancellor, said recently in a prepared statement.
"It is important we get this right.”
Meanwhile, at the Diocese of Tulsa, all records of the diocese dating back to its inception in 1972, have been examined by a diocesan committee and then sent to an independent law firm for legal review, said Dave Crenshaw, director of communication. Crenshaw said a diocesan board is currently conducting a final review.
"There's no specific date for a release of names yet, but the process is in its final stages," he said.
In a column that appeared in the January-February 2019 Eastern Oklahoma Catholic magazine, Bishop David Konderla discussed the review process.
"We are currently engaged in a complete and thorough review of our clergy files by an independent law firm. When finished, we will release the report on its findings with regard to abuse in the past," Konderla wrote. "In this way, victims who may have been suffering alone and in the shadows might be encouraged to come forward so we can help them on the path of healing and recovery. Also, the faithful can have full confidence that no one who has committed the crime of abuse against minors in the past is still in ministry."
The Tulsa Diocese encompasses eastern Oklahoma while the Oklahoma City Archdiocese spans two-thirds of the state.
Efforts to inform public
The Pennsylvania grand jury public report, released last August, touched off a wave of inquiries into priest sexual abuse and hierarchical cover-ups in dioceses across the country. And many dioceses around the region have disclosed information related to their parishes in recent months.
• In September, the Diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, released the names of 12 priest or former priests with credible allegations of sex abuse against minors, received in the last 70 years. At the time, Bishop Anthony Taylor, a former priest with the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, said the diocese had hired Kinsale Management Consulting to do an independent review of clergy personnel files and the diocese's ongoing internal file review. Taylor updated the public in February to report that additional allegations of abuse had been received, most of them regarding priests already on the diocese's list and none in active ministry.
• In October, the Diocese of Fort Worth, Texas, listed 17 priests in its monthly update.
• In January, the Catholic Diocese of Dallas named 31 clergymen credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors. The Fort Worth-Star Telegram reported that Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said the list was compiled by former state and federal law enforcement officers who reviewed the files of 2,424 priests, going back to 1950. Burns told the news outlet that the clergymen's names had been forwarded to law enforcement.
• In January, the Diocese of Austin, Texas, released the names of 22 priests.
• In January, the Diocese of Galveston-Houston listed 40 priests since 1950.
• In February, the bishop of the Diocese of Tucson, Arizona, said over the last decade, the diocese had fired 10 employees because of allegations of sexual misconduct. Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger, another former Oklahoma City priest, said during that same period, the diocese also rescinded clearance for 12 unpaid workers, likely volunteers, because of sexual misconduct allegations.
• In March, the Diocese of Salina, Kansas, released the names of 28 credibly accused priests and religious clergy, the Associated Press reported. Most of the cases stemmed from the 1950s to the 1980s, according to investigations by church officials.
Many of the dioceses have described the allegations against the listed clergy as being "credible."
In Oklahoma City, Clay recently explained the archdiocese's definition of the terms "credible" and "substantiated" and what these terms will mean in the forthcoming report.
"When a complaint is received, the archdiocese starts with the presumption that the allegation is being brought forward in good faith. Therefore, all allegations are considered credible," she said.
"The report investigator's task is to investigate it thoroughly. An allegation is considered 'substantiated' when it is corroborated with witness statements, documents, emails, photos, texts, admission or by another source such as law enforcement. No matter how long ago the abuse occurred, an effort is made to determine if the allegation can be substantiated."