Thank You to the Bishops That Make a Difference to Help Stop Sexual Abuse

by | Jul 25, 2023 | Catholic Church, Firm News

Catholic Bishops Horowitz Law

We’re doing something a bit different today. Much of this blog exposes what the Catholic hierarchy does wrong regarding child sex crimes and cover-ups. Today, however, we highlight a handful of church officials taking small but perhaps significant steps in the right direction. As noted, most Catholic bishops disclose the bare minimum of information about their child-molesting clerics. But a few precious bishops provide the public with more than the bare minimum. These men deserve mention. 

1: Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento stands out in at least three ways regarding his ‘credibly accused’ list. He includes a category called “last known location.” (This helps prevent future child sex crimes.) He lists not only the year of birth for each predator but also where he was born. (This helps minimize the chance of a non-predator being confused with a predator.) He also provides the most details about a clerics’ victims of any bishop. (This level of detail helps persuade skeptical Catholics, who may personally know, trust and be fond of an accused cleric – that the allegations are credible.) For example, see Soto’s entry about Fr. Gerardo Beltran Rico below:

      • Female, under the age of 14
      • Nature of accusation(s): Sexual touching and fondling
      • Year reported to the diocese: 1992
      • Female, under the age of 14
      • Nature of accusation(s): Sexual touching and fondling, masturbation, and rape by force
      • Year reported to the diocese: 2009
      • Male, under the age of 14
      • Nature of accusation(s): Sexual touching and fondling
      • Year reported to the diocese: 2007

2: Archbishop Nelson Perez of Philadelphia provides photos of his predator priests.

3: Two Illinois prelates – Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago and Bishop Michael McGovern of Belleville – include deacons (apparently not nuns or religious brothers).

4: Bishop Robert Marshall of Alexandria, Louisiana, helpfully and clearly distinguishes between child molesting clerics who are alive and deceased, rightly listing the still-living predators first.

5: Bishop Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City, Missouri, highlights predators’ names in red when he adds new ones to his ‘credibly accused list.

6: Bishop Michael Duca of Baton Rouge provides more information about his credibly accused clerics than most of his peers: “Name, Affiliation, Year of Ordination, Pastoral Assignment, Number of Allegations, Assignment at Time of Abuse, Date of Abuse, Date Reports Received, Action Taken.” Bishop Duca also includes the name of a credibly accused abusive seminarian, James Funnell, on his list. Some bishops only list priests and ignore abusive nuns, deacons, monks, and seminarians. And when listing predators’ work assignments, Bishop Duca includes locations outside his diocese, which not all bishops do. For example, he acknowledges that Rodrigue Alphonse Hemond worked in Texas, Rhode Island, and Canada.

7: Bishop Ronald Hicks of the Joliet Diocese deserves a mention here. Hicks is, as best we can tell, the only one of Illinois’ seven bishops who recently added more predators’ names to his credibly accused’ list since the state attorney general urged them to do so two months ago.

8: Baltimore Archbishop William Lori recently added more names to Baltimore’s list but only after considerable pressure from news outlets, parishioners, and the public following the release of Maryland’s Attorney General’s Report in April 2023.

9: Bishop Ed Rice of Springfield, Missouri, includes two predators on his list that many other bishops would have ignored. Rice acknowledges that Fr. Henry Willenborg had ‘no assignment from the diocesan bishop’ but lived at a Springfield area church entity, Our Lady of the Angels Friary, in Ava, Missouri, while an abuse report against him was being investigated. Fr. Willenborg was suspended by his religious order supervisors, the Franciscan Friars. Rice also lists another cleric that he could have ignored but didn’t: He discloses on his website that Fr. John Ruhl – deemed ‘credibly accused’ abuser by his religious order, the Vincentians – “could have been in and out of the Cape Girardeau area” (which is part of Rice’s diocese).

A few important caveats:

      • No matter how much detail a Catholic official may provide on each perpetrator, what matters, even more is that every single perpetrator is listed. It is crystal clear, however, that few, if any, church officials do this.
      • Progress comes only from pressure (The extensive Illinois attorney general documents how bishops gradually added more abusive priests to their public lists after repeated prodding from his AG staffers.)
      • It’s no coincidence that bishops who do a better job with naming predator priests tend to be in states 1) where attorneys general have done statewide investigations into clergy sex crimes and cover-ups and 2) where civil ‘window’ laws have been or may be enacted. In other words, for the most part, Catholic officials are still doing the bare minimum on preventing abuse and disclosing cover-ups unless they experience or fear outside forces like criminal probes or civil litigation compelling them to do so.

We hope that prosecutors, parents, parishioners, and public officials keep pressuring Catholic officials to post the names of ALL credibly accused child molesting clerics and provide more details about their crimes and whereabouts. Some say it’s time for the church hierarchy to ‘come clean’ on abuse. We at Horowitz Law disagree. We say it’s long past time.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy.  If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.