Manchester diocese releases list of priests accused of abuse

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester released a list Wednesday of priests accused of sexually abusing children as part of what it called an effort to take accountability for the abuse that stretched back decades.

The diocese posted the list of 73 names on its website that go as far back as 1950, including two names that were never made public before. Of those on the list, 50 are deceased. The other 23 have either left the ministry or are prohibited from public ministry as a priest.

Along with the names, the list includes parishes where the priests served and the status of their cases. But the list provides no details of the allegations or the dates when the events happened, which angered at least one survivor of diocese abuse.

“The list is kind of deceiving. It just tells you when they were ordained and parishes they were in,” said David Ouellette, a survivor of a sexual abuse in the 1980s by a diocese priest on the list. “It doesn’t talk about any of the sexual abuse.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, also questioned the limited details released about the priests.

Among the details they want divulged is when the abuse happened, what steps were taken against the priest and when the actions were taken — to help determine if there was any kind of cover up by the diocese. They also said the list should include priest who served in the diocese but committed abuse elsewhere as well as allegations against nuns, religious brothers or lay employees.

“Releasing a list of names is important to acknowledging the depth and breadth of clergy abuse in New Hampshire,” the group said in a statement. “Unfortunately, as we have come to expect, the list of names and details released today is incomplete and inadequate.”

The Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence said the list shows the diocese is taking a step toward accountability. But it also urged church leaders to come out in support of an end to a statute of limitations on the crimes committed by the priests.

“Disclosures of abuse do not fit into artificial timelines and we believe that every survivor should have the right to seek justice no matter how much time has passed since the abuse occurred,” Amanda Grady Sexton, the group’s director of public affairs, said in a statement.

Bishop Peter Libasci, in a letter accompanying the list, apologized for the abuse and said he prays daily that victims find healing and that “we never allow such darkness to enter our church again.”

The names are accompanied by resources on the website for survivors and a section for anyone to report church abuse.

“This is meant as an act of ownership and accountability,” Libasci said. “It is my hope that by making this information available, we are holding ourselves accountable to the evils of the past.”

The diocese has published some names in the past, but this is the first time all the names are compiled in one place. It also comes more than 17 years after the diocese entered an agreement with the state over how it handles sexual abuse allegations.

Under the agreement, the state said it would not prosecute the diocese as an institution or any individuals for their past handling of sexual abuse allegations involving clergy. County attorneys still can pursue individual prosecutions.

In return, the diocese agreed to enact strict new child protection policies, admit its actions had harmed children and open itself up to a series of audits. The new policies included reporting all allegations to the attorney general’s office and removing accused church personnel from their jobs.

In 2009, after the last audit was done, the attorney general’s office said the diocese had improved its safeguards for children. But it recommended the diocese strengthen its background check and training database, improve communication between officials working to prevent abuse and begin conducting its own internal auditing.

More than 140 religious orders and Roman Catholic dioceses have released similar lists. More than 100 of those lists were either released or significantly updated since a Pennsylvania grand jury in last year detailed hundreds of cases of alleged abuse.

Many dioceses haven’t historically named priests who were accused after their death because they can’t defend themselves, though some have changed their policy for transparency.