By Emily Holter and Rodney Robinson
Capital News Service
RICHMOND — Advocates for victims of child abuse still have concerns after the two Catholic dioceses in Virginia released the names of 58 clergy who church officials said had been credibly accused of sexual abuse against a minor.
The Diocese of Richmond issued a list of 42 names along with a letter of apology to the family and children affected. “To those who experienced abuse from clergy, I am truly, deeply sorry. I regret that you have to bear the burden of the damage you suffered at the hands of those you trusted,” Bishop Barry C. Knestout stated in Wednesday’s letter.
The Diocese of Arlington posted the names of 16 clergy members “credibly accused of child sexual abuse.” Bishop Michael Burbidge said in an accompanying letter, “The publishing of this list will bring a range of emotions for all of us. Embarrassment, frustration, anger and hurt are all natural emotions to experience in a time such as this. I share those emotions.”
Camille Cooper, director of government affairs for the National Association to Protect Children, said the action by church officials was overdue.
“It’s about time in terms of them being willing to come forward and make an apology,” she said.
But Cooper added, “I don’t think it goes far enough. I have concerns about what they define as credible and substantiated — that’s not very clear.”
In September, Knestout said the church would audit clergy files in the wake of several sexual child abuse cases and release names of offenders.
The Richmond diocese covers more than 140 parishes in the northern and south-central areas of Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. The Arlington diocese includes the northeast corner of the state.
The lists released Wednesday include names of clergy who are deceased or have been convicted, suspended or removed dating back to the 1940s. These are clergy “against whom a credible and substantiated allegation was made,” according to church officials.
Priests can be removed from the priesthood only by the Vatican. Although a bishop can suspend priests for their actions, they must receive financial “sustenance” under church law, according to Knestout.
In October, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that his office and the Virginia State Police were investigating sexual abuse within the Richmond and Arlington dioceses.
“If there has been abuse or cover-up in Virginia, I want to know about it, I want to root it out, and I want survivors to get justice and get on to a path of healing,” Herring said at the time.
His action came after a grand jury in Pennsylvania found “credible” evidence that more than 300 “predator priests” in Pennsylvania sexually abused more than 1,000 children since the 1940s.
Virginia is one of 13 states that have launched investigations.