The Archdiocese of Washington released the names of 31 priests who were considered “credibly accused” of sexual abuse toward minors in the last 70 years on Oct. 15.
The list includes 28 ordained priests of the archdiocese and three religious order or non-diocesan priests, with details under each name revealing the actions taken by the archdiocese following reports of abuse. Seventeen of the named priests are deceased.
The list was the product of an internal review ordered in 2017 by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, former archbishop of Washington, according to the Oct. 15 news release. Pope Francis accepted Wuerl’s resignation from the archbishop position Oct. 12 after Wuerl received criticism for enabling sexual abuse during his tenure as bishop of the Pittsburgh Diocese. The accusations against Wuerl surfaced in a Pennsylvania grand jury report released Aug. 1
The list serves as a reminder of the ongoing effects of sexual abuse in the church, Wuerl said in the Oct. 15 news release.
“This list is a painful reminder of the grave sins committed by clergy, the pain inflicted on innocent young people, and the harm done to the Church’s faithful, for which we continue to seek forgiveness,” Wuerl said.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests criticized the list as incomplete, arguing several credible accusations had been left out and jeopardized the integrity of the list. Six of the names had not previously been made public, according to The Washington Post.
“As it is, today’s disclosure appears to be a hastily assembled PR stunt, not a comprehensive effort to inform parishioners and citizens in Washington, D.C. about the extent of the scandal there,” SNAP said in an Oct. 15 news release.
The internal review remains ongoing and the archdiocese will update the published list if necessary, Archdiocese Director of Media and Public Relations Chieko Noguchi wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The Oct. 15 archdiocese news release reveals cases of priests who were credibly accused but were reinstated to ministry, including Thomas Schaefer, who was first accused of sexual abuse in 1967. Schaefer returned to ministry only to be reported again in 1982, and returned another time in 1983 before being permanently removed from parish ministry in 1986. Schaefer was arrested in 1995 and convicted in 1996 of sexual molestation, according to The Washington Post.
The archdiocese has not found a credible allegation in nearly 20 years, and no priest in active ministry in the archdiocese has been subject to a credible sexual abuse allegation, according to Noguchi.
Noguchi did not elaborate on the archdiocese’s process of determining whether an accusation against a priest is considered credible.
The move was an important step in both coming to terms with the existence of abuse and demonstrating accountability for those who abuse or enable abuse, according to Erica Lizza (SFS’19), president of Catholic Women at Georgetown. (Full Disclosure: Lizza is a member of The Hoya’s Editorial Board.)
“We hope that this and other efforts to cultivate transparency on the part of the Archdiocese can prevent future abuse and promote healing for the Church,” Lizza wrote in an email to The Hoya.
The release comes after disarray in the Washington Archdiocese following Wuerl’s resignation. Theodore McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, D.C., resigned in July from the College of Cardinals following multiple allegations of sexual abuse. Both McCarrick and Wuerl have honorary degrees from Georgetown University. The Vatican is currently conducting an internal investigation into allegations against McCarrick.