OGDENSBERG, N.Y. – The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg has identified 28 priests, including 16 now dead, credibly accused of sexually abusing minors and “vulnerable adults” since 1950.
But Bishop Terry LaValley did not release details of the accusations against the priests or where they served in the diocese, which is comprised of more than 100 parishes in eight counties of northern New York State.
News of the bishop’s action was announced at last Sunday’s masses, and posted to the diocese’s website this week.
LaValley participated in this week’s U.S. Conference of Bishops in Baltimore to discuss the Catholic Church’s national sexual abuse crisis. No policy or protocols on how to hold the bishops and other clergy more accountable emerged from the session.
The Ogdensburg Diocese announced earlier it had removed eight priests from ministry in the past 16 years and paid out $5.4 million in reparations to 37 victims of clergy abuse over the decades.
Darcy Fargo, director of communications for the diocese, said no credible accusations of abuse have been brought forth in more than 20 years. “We pray this is a sign we are on the right path,” she said.
She did acknowledge 11 of the 28 identified priests had been transferred to other parishes after undergoing treatment at rehabilitation centers, and ended up as repeat abusers.
“They would be sent for counseling based on the best medical practices of the time,” said Fargo. “We feel it wasn’t done in a malicious cover-up fashion. We were following the best practices of the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s in the times when these cases occurred. Obviously, now we know those to be flawed science and people were hurt as the result of it.”
Fargo said now when an accusation is made against a priest, there’s a preliminary investigation and then the case goes to a diocese review board of current and former law enforcement officials, judges, psychologists, social workers, educators and clergy. The board presents a recommendation to the bishop, who decides if the accusation is credible. If it is, he removes the priest from his ministry.
The debate at the U.S. bishops meeting in Baltimore focused on a process for dealing with sexual abuse allegations and with church officials who themselves may be accused of misconduct or of covering up predator priest cases.
Reference was made to ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, who resigned as bishop of Washington, D.C., after complaints of harassment by seminarians and young priests and accusations by two men who say he sexually abused them as boys.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, bishop of the Galveston-Houston Diocese and president of the bishops’ conference, said he plans to propose at a major Vatican synod in February that a process be established for investigating complaints against bishops reported through a third-party hotline, and a protocol for removing bishops who violate a code of conduct.
The church has been struggling with the sexual abuse scandal since 2002, when it rocked the Boston Diocese and then spread to other parts of the country and the world.
A Pennsylvania grand jury report in August identified hundreds of predator priest cases in that state that had been hidden for years from from the public. It was the broadest investigation of the scandal by a government agency, prompting officials in other states to initiate similar reviews.
Several state legislatures are also considering bills to extend the statute of limitations in child sexual abuse cases for prosecution and reparations.
The Plattsburgh, N.Y., Press-Republican contributed details to this story.