In a recent interview with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), DiNardo was asked about a pledge that all dioceses in Texas would release the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
“‘Credibly accused’ is being worked out in terms of our lawyers even now as we speak,” DiNardo said, adding that independent auditors were also reviewing archdiocesan files.
Despite an increasing trend to release names — an initiative widely demanded by sex abuse survivors and praised by watchdog organizations — the practice also raises new questions, most notably being what “credibly accused” actually means and who gets to decide.
As the U.S. bishops wrapped up their closely-watched meeting in Baltimore last month, DiNardo, in his final summation, said that as the conference advances its efforts to respond to the abuse crisis, among the next steps would be “studying national guidelines for the publication of lists of names of those clerics facing substantiated claims of abuse.”
While the USCCB lacks uniform protocols for releasing names, leaving it up to individual dioceses for them to set their own parameters, many bishops in Baltimore expressed the desire for a more comprehensive policy.
According to Kathleen McChesney, former executive director of the USCCB’s Office of Child Protection and now CEO of Kinsale Consulting, “generally credible means the allegation could have taken place in terms of individuals involved, location, date and plausibility.”
“Other dioceses use ‘plausible’ as the definition, which is similar. Some dioceses consider credible allegations to be ‘more likely true than not’ while others look for more certainty, in other words, that the facts presented are ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’ ‘established’ — meaning proven or admitted,” she told Crux.
Terry McKiernan, president and co-director of Bishop Accountability, a group that tracks clergy abuse cases, argues that it’s not enough for dioceses simply to release the names — but to release solid lists that contain hard information and the circumstances of the alleged abuse.
“When names are just published by the dioceses, with no story or history there, it makes things difficult,” he told Crux. “Credible in the Church’s parlance is the lowest bar. Substantiated is a different, higher standard.”
Even so, McKiernan believes the rapid release of lists within recent months is progress, noting, “once a list is out, then it can be updated and improved upon.”
Full story at Angelus News.