Roughly 158 dioceses and 24 religious orders have released some names of child molesting clerics.
On this blog, we have noted a number of omissions by a number of Catholic officials. But have there been mistakes of commission: instances in which the church hierarchy called a cleric ‘credibly accused’ abusers but later been forced to admit they were wrong?
We know of at least one. It involved a Connecticut priest who was dead when the local prelate put him on – and later took him off’- an ‘accused list,’ acknowledging that it was a mistake.
That brings us to what might be initially viewed as a similar situation. But one that is, in fact, very different: Fr. Albert J. Gondek of North Carolina.
He was on the official Raleigh diocesan ‘credibly accused’ list three times in a row (2018, early in 2019, and later in 2019).
Then, without explanation, he disappeared from the list early in 2020 but reappears, again without explanation, later in 2020.
And this year, he vanished again.
Since this is such a bizarre turn of events, one would assume Raleigh Bishop Luis Zarama would have explained why this was done.
But one would be wrong.
That’s especially odd – and inexcusable – because all of this took place during Bishop Zarama’s tenure.
(Such confusing treatment of Fr. Gondek, however, also happened under Zarama’s predecessor. In 2007, Fr. Gondek was put on leave following an abuse report, but was reinstated later that year. Then, he was suspended again in 2015 following more abuse reports.)
So Raleigh citizens and Catholics, even now, haven’t been given any real explanation of why Raleigh’s bishop considers Fr. Gondek a ‘credibly accused’ child molester for three straight years but is evidently now quietly backtracking.
The obvious question is if Bishop Zarama made this quiet, unexplained reversal with Fr. Gondek, has he done it with other child molesting clerics?
(Details about Fr. Gondek’s case can be found at the end of this blog.)
Here are a couple of other points worth noting about the Raleigh ‘credibly accused’ list:
–We’ve noted before on this blog the reluctance of Catholic bishops to ‘call a spade a spade’ and use vague language about abuse. Raleigh’s bishop is no different. What most other church officials call ‘credibly allegations’ he calls ‘actionable allegations’ that ‘bear a semblance of truth.’
He of course refuses to define what an ‘actionable’ accusation is.
–Bishop Zarama also omits some names he should include. Here are just two of them.
–Fr. John Thomas Lee, who admitted to abusing at least three men and pled guilty in 2015 to child porn charges.
He worked at Camp Lejeune in the Raleigh diocese.
–Fr. Carl E. Drake Jr., who is on the Columbus Ohio diocesan ‘credibly accused’ list and was convicted and court martialed for committing indecent acts with a 14 year old boy.
He worked at the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point, NC
Finally, here are the names of accused clerics that the Raleigh diocese have released: James Behan, Msgr Hugh Clarke, Andre Corbin, Peter Denges, Hugh Dolan, Kevin Downey, Stephen Garrity, Giacomo Ghisalberti, Jaime Guzman, Louis Hanneman, John Hyland, Harold Johnson, Joseph Kelleher, William Kuder, Harold McGovern, James McSweeney, J. Glenn Murray, Kenneth Parker, Justin Pechulis, Andrew Perry, John Powers, William Presley, John Richardson, Donald Scales, Raymond Schulte, Edgar Sepulveda, Edward William Smith, Robert Spangenberg and William Ward.
(And, as promised, details on the Fr. Gondek case. In 2015, he was accused of abusing a teenager when he pastored Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Lexington NC. He also worked at Sacred Heart Church in Whiteville, NC and spent time in at least four other states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida and Maryland.)
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Raleigh in North Carolina. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in North Carolina, contact our office today. Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Raleigh now have legal options, but filing deadlines will apply so do not delay in reaching out to us. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in North Carolina and nationwide. We can help.