On Friday, the Archdiocese of St. Louis released the names of 64 clergy who have substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor against them.
St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson acknowledged publishing the names of the clergy won’t undo the past — nothing will. But, he correctly noted it is an important step in the long process of healing.
So is communicating how the church investigated and compiled the list of offending clergy, how it is working with the Missouri Attorney General’s office to ensure any new information is considered and handled appropriately, and the resources available to victims of abuse.
The St. Louis Archdiocese provided all of this information, as well as how victims can report abuse of minors by any church personnel, when it released the report “Shining Light on Darkness” that includes the names of the clergy.
Again, none of these actions will change the past. But it’s clear the church is changing direction on this issue and is taking decisive steps in addressing what one bishop called “perhaps the gravest crisis we have ever faced,” in U.S. Catholic history.
Critics will complain it is not enough or “too little, too late,” but any critic should recognize the obvious “about-face” when you have an archbishop affirmatively calling for victims to come forward and pledging to investigate each and every claim of sexual abuse.
Our region has a large and fervent Catholic population. We know how painful reading the names of the clergy are to them and especially to survivors of abuse — many of whom never fully recover.
It’s heartbreaking for Catholics to see their ideals shattered, their trust violated. But we also know there is a sense of relief that concrete actions are being taken to address this shameful problem.
Publishing the names of the offending priests is the right thing to do, no matter how painful. Acknowledging the problem is always the first step in overcoming the problem. As one priest said Sunday in his homily, “The truth will set us free, but before it sets us free it will make us miserable.”
The Catholic Church is in need of healing. It is in need of transparency and accountability. Identifying those who have committed these despicable abuses is crucial to repairing the damage wrought by them and restoring trust for all Catholics.