Why the Seattle archdiocese published the names of 77 sex abusers

The Seattle archdiocese released 77 names of Roman Catholic church clergy and officials who abused children in an effort to promote transparency.

Rob Keeris/AP
Members of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) protest at the ICC because no high-ranking Roman Catholic leaders have been prosecuted for sheltering guilty priests in 2011. SNAP suggested that a Friday release of guilty priest names was a good, but late step.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Seattle published the names of 77 clergyman and others in church leadership who sexually abused children over the last century.

Such lists have been published in other dioceses, but usually under legal or social duress. The Seattle archdiocese took this step of its own accord "in the interest of further transparency and accountability," according to a fact sheet. 

The Seattle archdiocese "was ahead of the curve in recognizing the abuse problem, but behind where it should have been," wrote Joel Connelly for the Seattle PI.

The area representative for Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said releasing the names was a good step, although she was suspicious of the timing because no outside pressure had prompted it, according to Lewis Kamb and Jennifer Sullivan for the Seattle Times.

"Any time a predator’s name is publicized, kids are safer,” Mary Dispenza, Northwest director for SNAP, told the Seattle Times. “So that’s a positive. However, this is very late in coming."

Mike McKay, a former US attorney in Washington, told the Seattle Times he had recommended releasing these names in 2004, but Archbishop J. Peter Sartain began working on it when he was appointed in 2010, archdiocese spokesman Greg Magnoni told the Seattle Times. Finding a process that the Archdiocesan Review Board would approve took from early 2011 to 2013.

“Nearly half are deceased, so there’s no way for that individual to defend themselves or to go to those individuals," Mr. Magnoni told the Seattle Times. "It was a painstaking process."

Magnoni said the release was not the result of outside pressure.

"In early 2014 we brought in a private consultant, a former FBI agent who does this kind of work," Magnoni told the Seattle Times. "She came in with an associate and was given full access to our files."

The archbishop expressed his "deepest apologies" for abuse of children under the church's care in a letter published Friday. He wrote that the archdiocese of Seattle was "one of the first in the country to publicly acknowledge the devastating impact of this abuse" in the 1980s, and he intended to build on such efforts by publishing the names of perpetrators against whom cases were "admitted, established, or determined to be credible."

"This action is being taken in the interest of further transparency and accountability, and to continue to encourage victims of sexual abuse by clergy to come forward," Sartain wrote. "Our work in this area will not be complete until all those who have been harmed have received assistance in healing, and until the evil of child sexual abuse has been eradicated from society."

The list includes individuals who served in western Washington from 1923 to 2008. The list names 40 people who have passed on, and 14 were "laicized" or defrocked, meaning returned to the status of a layperson within the church. Six have entered a state of "permanent prayer and penance" on behalf of their sins and those abused. The whereabouts of 13 are unknown, but many were prosecuted as part of sexual abuse cases in the Seattle area.

The list published on the archdiocese website includes priests both from the archdiocese and outside it, as well as deacons, brothers, and one nun.

This report contains material from the Associated Press.

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