PHOENIX (AP) - Victims of sexual abuse and attorneys representing them on Wednesday called for the Phoenix Diocese of the Roman Catholic church to disclose the names of all priests who have been accused of child sex crimes.
The demand came at a news conference where Minnesota-based attorney and longtime clergy abuse victim advocate Jeff Anderson released a report with the names of 109 clerics he says have been accused of crimes against children.
The Phoenix Diocese has publicly released a list of 43 names of clergy who have been “credibly accused” of abuse since the diocese was formed in 1969 and removes them from their clerical duties. Priests accused before that year are disclosed by the Tucson and Gallup, New Mexico, dioceses, which oversaw parts of the region before the new diocese was created.
The diocese said it appeared the list contained names of priests identified on its website and those maintained by other dioceses and religious orders, and that none of those identified by Anderson are in an active Phoenix-area ministry. The Associated Press located one of the names left off the Phoenix list as one maintained on a list by the Gallup diocese.
But Anderson and other advocates say the Phoenix diocese owes victims complete transparency and should disclose every name, including those that have worked for other religious orders allowed to work in the diocese.
He said he believes the diocese has underreported the number of priests who have worked and been accused of child sexual molestation.
“It is time for transparency, and it’s time for disclosure,” Anderson said. “And this is our best effort to begin the process of full disclosure here,” he said of the list he released .
The diocese issued a statement saying that it hopes the news conference allowed victims “to shine a spotlight on the evil actions that have caused them and their loved ones deep suffering.
“We share in their anguish and anger. We pray that today serves as another step along their journey to healing,” it said.
The diocese also laid out the actions it has taken to stop abuse, including listing those credibly accused of abuse on its website , removing them from their ministry, training 30,000 priests, employees and volunteers a year on spotting and reporting sex abuse, and setting up an outside review board to review accusations against priests.
The news conference also highlighted a new state law that gives abuse victims until their 30th birthday to sue, a decade longer than before. It opens a one-time window for victims who’ve missed the cutoff, who now have until the end of 2020 to file suit.
“It provides a path to justice for survivors,” Tim Lennon, an abuse victim who is board president for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, said of the new law.
Lennon praised Anderson’s work revealing names of accused priests, saying that getting out their names will protect children. “As long as this information is buried, then our communities are not safe,” he said.
Anderson had done a series of news conferences across the country this year where he’s released lists of priests that local dioceses have not revealed.
“We know that there are so many more clerical offenders out there that have been accused and … have yet to be revealed,” Anderson said. “This is part of a process in which there can now be accountability and transparency.”
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