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story.lead_photo.caption Diocese of Little Rock. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

The Diocese of Little Rock, which oversees Catholic churches throughout the state of Arkansas, has released a "preliminary" list of clergy who served at some point in the state and against whom it said there are "credible allegations" of sexual abuse of a minor.

The list, which was compiled via an internal review, names eight priests against whom the diocese said "credible allegations have been substantiated," either through the accused's own admission or via diocese investigation. It also includes the names of four priests against whom it said "unsubstantiated though credible allegations of abuse of a minor have been received."

The diocese has made the list of alleged abusers available on a website, dolr.org/clergy-disclosure-list, which includes the names of the priests accused of abuse, their year of ordination, their postings, the number of known victims, their status in the church and if they are deceased.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor, who heads the diocese, said in a phone interview that the group had chosen to name the priests in the wake of the August grand jury report that detailed hundreds of episodes of sexual abuse over decades by priests in Pennsylvania and in response to feedback from the Catholic community in Arkansas.

"People were inquiring about names," Taylor said in a phone interview. "We want to reach out to persons who have been victims of sexual abuse, and when they see the name of their abuser ... it kind of frees people up to be able to come forward and indicate that they, too, have been victimized."

In a written statement, Taylor described the list as the result of a review of personnel files as well as consultation with the Diocesan Review Board.

That group is a body of 10 people not employed by the diocese who are appointed by the bishop to review allegations of sexual abuse of minors, as well as related policies and procedures, programming and compliance with "safe environment" audits.

However, the diocese noted that there may be some inaccuracies within the list released Monday, which chancellor for canonical affairs Deacon Matthew Glover said could include minor errors in the dates of postings and errors in the number of victims.

"The reality is that we know there may be more victims out there. ... So when we list, for example, the number of known victims of a particular priest, we know that that number may not be entirely accurate at this time," Glover said in a phone interview.

Glover confirmed the diocese will conduct investigations this fall with Kinsale Management Consulting, a group that he said has assisted dioceses in other states -- including the Archdiocese of Seattle and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis -- with similar processes.

Kinsale Management Consulting "provides operational, investigative and educational support to businesses and faith-based organizations" on workplace violence prevention, child abuse prevention, employee misconduct investigations and other topics, according to its website.

In its fall investigation in Arkansas, which the diocese anticipates will wrap up by December, the consulting group will conduct an independent review of clergy personnel files and also will examine how previous bishops and religious superiors handled allegations of sexual abuse.

The results of that report will be made available to the public in some way, Glover said. However, the diocese cannot yet say whether the report will be made available in full, because the details of the review process have not yet been determined with Kinsale.

This is not the first time information about sexual abuse within the church in Arkansas has been made available to the public. In 2004, statistics about abuse by priests in the state based on a nationwide study conducted by John Jay College of Criminal Justice were published in the Arkansas Catholic newspaper, Glover said.

However, those statistics did not include names of the accused abusers.

"People have a right to know these things," Taylor said.

He determined that the diocese would share information about allegations it had deemed credible over the past 70 years, a period which was chosen to mirror the time frame examined by the Pennsylvania grand jury report.

The diocese investigates every allegation it receives, Glover says. Allegations are determined to be credible based on the presence of similar allegations, the credibility of the accuser, information from personnel files, interviews with the accused and consideration by the Diocesan Review Board.

However, there are some cases -- as with four names on the list -- which are considered "unsubstantiated though credible," which can mean the allegation was made after the accused had died or because not enough information is available to substantiate the allegation, though the church's investigation still found the allegation legitimate.

"The reality is that often times a number of these allegations did not come to our attention until well after a particular cleric died, and so my ability, personally, to investigate allegations after a cleric dies is made much more difficult," Glover said.

Glover said all the names on the list, to his knowledge, have been referred to the authorities for allegations that have been made since 2002.

The diocese also has reached out to the office of the state attorney general in tandem with the release of its review.

"[The attorney general] is coordinating with the Diocese to review and investigate allegations of abuse," Attorney General Leslie Rutledge's spokesman Amanda Priest said in a statement. "The Attorney General will not tolerate abuse and will work with local prosecutors and the Catholic diocese to address any issues in Arkansas."

Priest said Arkansans who have information about abuse should call the attorney general's office or a local prosecutor.

When people who work for the church hear allegations of abuse, referrals to local authorities are made through Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline, Glover says, adding that people employed by the church are mandatory reporters.

Taylor's written statement encourages people who have been abused by or know of abuse by any representative of the church to call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline first, followed by calls to Glover and victim assistance coordinators Drs. George or Sherry Simon, who are clinical psychologists employed by the church.

The church has offered assistance to people who have made credible allegations of sexual abuse, which can include covering the cost of counseling and medications, as well as case-by-case assistance unrelated to counseling.

According to Taylor, within the diocese, there have not been any allegations of offenses that were committed since 2002, though it continues to receive allegations of offenses committed prior to that date.

In his statement, Taylor apologized to victims of abuse for "the way that church leadership has sometimes failed you," saying he hoped the list's release would encourage people who had experienced abuse to come forward.

"Let us all pray for one another during these most trying times in our Church," he wrote. "But let us pray most especially for the victims and their families -- they are the ones who are hurting the most."

A Section on 09/11/2018

Print Headline: LR Diocese releases list of clergy implicated in sex abuse

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