The announcement by Bishop Kevin Rhoades that he plans to release the names of priests found credibly accused of abusing children within the diocese is a good step toward accountability.
It is also long overdue.
At an Aug. 17 news conference Rhoades, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, offered an apology to abuse victims, saying, “The Church failed you.” He said that he plans to release the names of all accused priests “in a matter of weeks,” after going over each credible allegation with a diocesan review board.
His announcement came just two days after the release of a grand jury report that accuses 300 priests in Pennsylvania of abusing more than 1,000 children. The grand jury report also detailed Rhoades’ handling of the cases of a pair of priests during his tenure as Bishop of Harrisburg from 2004 to 2009. According to the report, Rhoades notified his superiors and law enforcement of the accusations in both cases but also cautioned against publicly releasing the information to avoid “scandal.”
The bishop said he has since learned the importance of making the names of abusers public for the benefit of their victims. He cited the release of the report as the impetus for his decision, which he said he’s been wrestling with for a year: “If the Pennsylvania grand jury report taught us anything, it’s that victims deserve to see the names of their abusers made public for all to see.”
Rhoades said that he hopes that by releasing the names, the victims of these “horrific and heartbreaking crimes” can begin the process of healing.
It’s unfortunate that it took the events in Pennsylvania to spur the bishop to do the right thing and go public with the names of abusive priests. Rhoades had chances to release the names sooner, but chose not to. Doing so would have shown that the interests of victims, and their healing, came before the accused priests. It’s a mistake too many Catholic leaders have made for years.
The Catholic Church as a whole has a number of issues to deal with in this decades-long crisis. But we’re glad the bishop made this decision, and we hope that it signals greater accountability going forward. As Rhoades himself said, it’s what victims deserve.