Virginia's Southern Baptists are still reeling from the sex abuse scandal in their denomination exposed by two Texas newspapers over last weekend. Now Virginia's two Catholic bishops - Bishop Barry Knestout of Richmond and
Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington - have released the names of 58 clergy credibly accused of sexual molestation of children and youths, thereby bring home to Catholic Virginians the reality of the abuse scandal is not off in far away cities. 42 of those named were in or had been in the Diocese of Richmond. The remainder were in the Diocese of Arlington. Both the Virginian Pilot
and the Washington Post
look at the releases which may have been spurred in part by the ongoing investigation of the Virginia Attorney General's office which is asking victims of clergy abuse to contact its hotline found here
. First excerpts from the Pilot
Diocese of Richmond released a list Wednesday of 42 clergy members who
"have a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against a
It follows the
conclusion of an independent investigation completed by a third party. Citing
the "highly sensitive nature of the information reviewed," diocese
spokeswoman Deborah Cox declined to name the independent examiners.
None of the
named clergy are listed as active members. Thirteen are deceased. Most are
classified as suspended or removed; five were "laicized," meaning
they have been removed from ministry. Past
news reports and information on the diocese website show at least six have ties
to Hampton Roads.
"To the victims
and to all affected by the pain of sexual abuse, our response will always be
about what we are doing, not simply what we have done," Bishop Barry
Knestout wrote in a letter published along with the list.
spokeswoman did not respond to a reporter's requests for comment.
Mark Herring announced in October the state would investigate the diocese. A
spokesperson for the office said Wednesday the investigation is ongoing.
Survivors are encouraged to reach out through their clergy hotline.
[O]n the list is
John E. Leonard, who served as principal of Norfolk Catholic High School from
1987 to 1992. According to an Associated Press story from 2004, he had been on
the faculty at St. John Vianney Seminary in Goochland in the early 1970s, when
he was convicted of assaulting two teenage boys. He was sentenced to two
consecutive 12-month jail terms, which were suspended. Leonard was instead
placed on lifelong probation. The diocese
website says Leonard was removed from the diocese in 2004 before his death in
pastor was Eugene John Teslovic, who, according to a 2002 story published by
The Pilot, was expelled from active ministry while serving at St. Luke Catholic
Church in Virginia Beach, where he had become pastor in 1991. He previously
served at the Church of Resurrection in Portsmouth. Teslovic is listed as
removed on the diocese website.
The piece in the Washington Post
looks at both dioceses and adds details on the Diocese of Arlington action and notes the larger scandal in the United States that intensified again last summer. Here are excerpts:
Catholic dioceses Wednesday released lists of clergy whom officials say were
deemed “credibly accused” of sexually abusing youth, the latest in a slew of
U.S. dioceses to make public such names amid a national crisis over clerical
abuse and coverups.
diocese of Arlington, which covers the northeastern corner of Virginia,
released a list of 16 names. It said the list was the product of two former FBI
agents contracted by the diocese and given access to clergy files and
information dating to its founding in 1974. It wasn’t immediately clear if any
of the names were completely new to Catholics of the diocese.
diocese of Richmond, which covers the rest of the state, released 42 names.
survivor-advocate on Wednesday criticized the Virginia lists, noting that they
don’t include the names of the parishes where the men served nor when they were
church has been in crisis . . . and this is something they think will make them
look good? To me this is reactive, not proactive,” said Becky Ianni, who said
she was abused beginning at age 8 in 1965 by Alexandria priest Rev. William
Reinecke, whose name appears on the Arlington list.
Catholic Church has been under the gun since last summer, when a top D.C.-based
cardinal — Theodore McCarrick — was suspended amid charges of abuse and
extensive coverup. He later resigned as cardinal and a decision is awaited any
day from Rome about his fate within the church. A grand jury report out of
Pennsylvania about dioceses there led to the early resignation of D.C.
Archbishop Donald Wuerl as well as additional civil investigations, bills
calling for expanded statutes of limitations so clergy victims could sue, and
more lists like the ones Wednesday out of Virginia.
attorney general, Mark Herring, is among the state prosecutors who recently
opened an investigation into Catholic dioceses and whether there have been
abuse and coverup.
includes 458,000 Catholics and 70 parishes. Richmond includes 222,000 Catholics
and 142 parishes. The reason for the apparently lopsided numbers wasn’t
immediately clear but the Richmond diocese covers a far larger, spread-out
territory. Richmond was established in the early 1800s while Arlington was
formed out of that in the 1970s.
The sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church is a topic this blog has covered for many years. With the Diocese of Richmond belatedly revealing at least a portion of its dirty linen (there could well be more names not released), I am reprinting a portion of my February, 2002, guest editorial piece in the Virginian Pilot:
Bigotry Claim Is Disingenuous
As a life long Catholic, former altar boy, and a 4th Degree Knight of Columbus,
I was dismayed by Bishop Walter F. Sullivan’s letter to the editor (Virginian
Pilot, January 30, 2002) decrying the editorial cartoon carried by the
Virginian Pilot on January 21, 2002, focusing on the Catholic Church’s track
record in respect to pedophile clergy. Bishop Sullivan would have readers
believe the cartoon is “pure bigotry” against the Catholic Church. The reality
is that the Catholic Church hierarchy is most vigorous in instilling guilt and
a sense of sinfulness in its members on a host of topics ranging from birth
control, divorce (on January 28, 2002, Pope John Paul II directed all Catholic
lawyers and judges to refrain from taking divorce cases, Associated Press),
remarriage by divorced Catholics, and in-vitro fertilization, to attendance at
non-Catholic church services. Yet, the Catholic Church hierarchy has shown
little vigor in weeding out pedophile priests or disciplining high Church
officials who knew of sexual abuse problems but did not act to stop it.
The editorial cartoon carried by the Virginian Pilot surely arose from the
on-going scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston where, due to unrelenting
reporting by the Boston Globe on the lawsuits against former priest, John J.
Geoghan, it has been disclosed that over the last 10 years, the Archdiocese has
quietly settled child molestation claims against at least 70 priests. Church
records turned over under court order, document that five (5) bishops and two
(2) cardinals knew of Geoghan’s child molestation, yet he was repeatedly
reassigned to new, unsuspecting parishes (Boston Globe, January 31, 2002).
Unfortunately, the situation in Boston is not an isolated incident as shown by
a very brief search on the Internet . . .
Sadly, my words back then understated the huge global scale of the problem and the culpability of high Church officials.