Published July 28, 2011
BOSTON – A watchdog group frustrated that Boston Cardinal Sean O'Malley hasn't released a promised list of suspected pedophile priests disclosed the names Thursday of nine previously unnamed suspected abusers.
The group, BishopAccountability.org, also sent a letter to the head of a powerful lay advisory committee urging her to pressure O'Malley to release the list, saying it was a matter of public safety and healing for victims.
O'Malley broke a vow of greater transparency "with no explanation or apology," said the letter to Mary Jane Doherty, chair of archdiocese's review board.
"How many reported priests' names is he keeping from the public? Dozens? Scores? A hundred? This is a silence of epic proportions — irresponsible, immoral, and dangerous," read the letter from BishopAccountability's co-directors, Anne Barrett Doyle and Terence McKiernan. "Because the archbishop will not break his silence, we are asking you to break yours."
The abuse crisis erupted in the archdiocese in 2002, then spread, creating what bishops have called the worst crisis in American Catholicism.
The independent review board advises the cardinal on child protection policies and if a child sex abuse allegation is credible. In an e-mail Thursday, Doherty said O'Malley isn't breaking any promises "but proceeding with care for all concerned."
"As someone who has worked in the trenches since 2002 to help the church develop policies and practices of child protection, I know that he and his appointed staff have consistently followed the principle of 'victims first' and sought child safety and justice for those who suffered abuse," she said.
Doherty said she's been in regular contact with O'Malley about the list and believes it's "very close" to release.
The archdiocese said Thursday it's made "substantial progress" on the list, but didn't indicate when it might be released.
Early this year, a prominent Boston attorney for clergy sex abuse victims, Mitchell Garabedian, released 17 new names of accused priests and urged other attorneys to do the same.
The new names disclosed by BishopAccountability were priests accused in Boston-area cases between 1951 and 1980. Each resulted in a settlement with the archdiocese, according to attorney Carmen Durso, who brought the claims. All nine priests are believed to be dead.
BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy sex abuse cases nationally, discovered the newly disclosed names while reviewing two publicly filed lawsuits brought by Durso, one from 2002 and the other from 2007. The names include Donald McGurrin, Alphonse B. Jansonis, Charles F. Dewey, Benedict Mawn, Septimo Basso and John J. Gallagher. Three other religious order brothers' full names weren't given in the complaint: Brother Leonard Xavier and Brother Albert, both Marists, and Brother Cuthbert, a Xaverian.
The ease with which her group found the names is a sign to Doyle that many more names are unreleased and not as easily found. She worries the archdiocese will lowball the total and said the continued delay only protects abusive priests and their superiors.
"(O'Malley) projects the image of a healer, but his actions are those of a secretive bureaucrat," she said.
The archdiocese has consistently said compiling the list is a complex job, citing concerns about due process for priests who have never been convicted of a crime.
Doyle said her group it's trying to hold O'Malley to a vow in March 2009 letter, when he wrote he was considering improving policy on releasing information about accused clergy. A year later, minutes from an archdiocesan meeting indicated the list was being compiled and would have 155 names, including 40 previously undisclosed names.
But BishopAccountability.org said it now has more than 240 names of priests or other religious workers who have substantive abuse accusations against them and worked at some point in Boston. Doyle estimated there are at least 350 such priests in Boston, based on the percentages from other dioceses that have fully disclosed their numbers of accused priests.
Victims of clergy sex abuse say a public airing of an alleged abusers name is a vital step toward healing.
"Once the betrayal happens, almost always, nothing changes in the victim's life. There's no arrest. ... There's not even an acknowledgment that, 'Yes, you've been deeply, deeply hurt," said David Clohessy, of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "At least seeing the perpetrator's name in public, it's a validation and consolation."