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Lawsuit seeks to identify New York priests accused of sexual abuse

The latest lawsuit to put a spotlight on the Catholic Church seeks to identify all priests in New York State who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

Posted: Nov. 1, 2018 3:20 PM
Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 5:14 PM

SYRACUSE - The latest lawsuit to put a spotlight on the Catholic Church seeks to identify all priests in New York State who have been accused of sexual misconduct.

However, the Diocese of Syracuse says it won't do that.

The lawsuit was filed in State Supreme Court in New York City. The plaintiff is accusing a Brooklyn priest of sexually abusing him for two years, and accuses all eight dioceses in New York State of making sure similar allegations never became public.

49 priests face accusations in the Syracuse Diocese, which spans seven counties - including Oneida and Madison. 67 priests in the Albany Diocese face accusations as well. That covers all or parts of 14 counties, including Herkimer and Otsego.

The lawsuit is seeking the names of all agents, including priests, accused of child molestation; the history of abuse; the pattern of sexual behavior; and the alleged offenders' last known address.

Syracuse Diocese officials explain why they won't release the information of the accused.

“It's certainly not right of any organization to put out a list of people accused. It should be a list of individuals found to have credible complaints of abusing a minor,” says Danielle Cummings, director of communications for the Diocese of Syracuse.

Cummings says the names of those who have been accused of abusing a minor are not being concealed. They have been sent to the county district attorneys.

“What has been the practice in regards to releasing a list of names since 2002 has been that if an individual comes to the dioceses and indicates they have been harmed, and it has been found to be a credible allegation and they would like that confirmed, we will confirm that,” said Cummings.

“We have some individuals, as much as it seems unreasonable for people to understand, there are victims who do not want the name of the person who harmed them to be on a list.”

Cummings says it's a matter of striking a balance.

“You're going against a wish of certain victims, and trying to comply with the other victims who want a full list. We respect both. It's not an easy decision to make.”

What Cummings could say is there are no active, practicing priests facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

“We have not had a complaint of clergy sexual misconduct of a minor in almost 30 years.”

“They're still wrong, they still hurt somebody, they're not seen in a good light - nor should they be. But these are not current cases,” she said.

The Diocese of Albany denies the claims filed in the lawsuit. It issued an email statement on Thursday.

“While we have not yet received the lawsuit announced by attorney Jeff Anderson during a press conference conducted Oct. 30, the Diocese of Albany denies the entirety of the alleged claims.

As a point of clarity, in 2015, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger proactively published a list of all known clergy offenders — living and deceased — on our diocesan website and in our diocesan newspaper, The Evangelist. At the time, Bishop Scharfenberger was one of only a handful of bishops in the country to take this step. That list can be found at www.rcda.org/offenders.

The list of 45 names includes all Diocese of Albany clergy who have been removed from ministry and those who were deceased or resigned prior to credible findings by the Diocesan Review Board of sexual misconduct with a minor.

We will have no further comment on the lawsuit at this time because the matter is in litigation.”

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