The Roman Catholic dioceses of Texas have released the names of almost 300 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing children over the last several decades, in the latest effort by the Catholic Church to disclose information as it faces scrutiny from state and federal investigators.
All 15 dioceses in Texas have now shared the names of accused priests, though one diocese, the Catholic Diocese of Fort Worth, started sharing names back in 2007.
"The Bishops of Texas have decided to release the names of these priests at this time because it is right and just, and to offer healing and hope to those who have suffered,” Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said in a statement accompanying his diocese’s release on Thursday night. Each individual diocese has listed the names of its accused priests online. “On behalf of all who have failed in this regard, I offer my sincerest apology. Our Church has been lacerated by this wound, and we must take action to heal it.”
Since a Pennsylvania grand jury report last summer revealed that some 300 “predator priests” in the state molested more than 1,000 children, the names of almost 1,250 alleged child abusers have been released by about 50 dioceses and other Catholic groups, NBC News reported. In December, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan revealed that Catholic dioceses in Illinois knew the names of at least 500 members of the clergy accused of child sex abuse and yet didn’t reveal it to the public.
About 8.5 million Catholics live in Texas, according to the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, and they make up about 30 percent of the state’s total population. Paul Petersen, a Dallas spokesperson for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told the New York Times that there may yet be more Texan priests who’ve abused people over the last several decades. Illinois, he pointed out, has far fewer Catholics.
“I am not trying to make it bigger than it is, but I think the number 300 is crazy low,” he said.
Officials in at least 15 states have also said that they plan to investigate sex abuse within the Catholic Church. The Department of Justice has also started subpoenaing records related to sex abuse from dioceses within Pennsylvania. In a highly unusual move, the feds have reportedly issued subpoenas targeted at exploring whether the diocese violated the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations statute, or RICO — which is usually used to go after organized crime syndicates.
Cover: In this Dec. 20, 2018 photo, flowers and brightly colored plastic banners of "papel picado," elaborately cut sheets with designs and words, decorate a chain link fence that was placed around St. Stephen Catholic Church in Houston, Texas, after it was ordered closed in May 2016 by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. (AP Photo/Juan Lozano)