More Catholic dioceses in Ohio will name accused priests

Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis M. Schnurr in a 2013 file photo. STAFF
Caption
Archbishop of Cincinnati Dennis M. Schnurr in a 2013 file photo. STAFF

(NOTE: This story has been updated from an earlier version to reflect new information from the Cincinnati archdiocese and from the Steubenville diocese.)

Two more Roman Catholic dioceses in Ohio will release the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of children.

The Steubenville diocese’s decision, in which officials and attorneys in Ohio’s smallest diocese will review files dating back to its formation in 1944, is expected to produce a list of an estimated 12 to 20 priests, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

The Catholic Diocese of Columbus said Wednesday it would release a list in the next few months that will include the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of abuse, whether they are living or dead.

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The Cincinnati archdiocese, which includes Dayton, Springfield and Hamilton, has already released names of priests — now totaling 15 — either permanently removed from the clerical state, meaning they are unable to function as priests anywhere, or are permanently removed from priestly ministry, meaning they are still priests but are assigned to live a life of prayer and penance.

A newspaper investigation published earlier this month revealed seven new child sex abuse allegations against dead, unnamed priests in the Cincinnati archdiocese over the last fiscal year alone. The story ran in the Dayton Daily News, Springfield News-Sun and Journal-News of Butler County.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s spokesman, Mike Schafer, said Wednesday the local church has identified all priests, living or dead, who are credibly accused, meaning available evidence shows the priest more likely than not abused the accuser. However, the archdiocese does not release the names of priests accused after death if a lack of evidence makes establishing credibility impossible. It will still pay for the accuser to attend counseling if the accusation has a “semblance of truth,” meaning it could have happened.

The Diocese of Toledo lists the names of 20 priests and deacons on its website who are among the 46 accused of sexually abusing children since 1950. Some names, though, were omitted because the priests are dead and can’t defend themselves and because they are no longer be a threat to anyone, the diocese said, echoing Cincinnati’s reasoning.

Earlier Wednesday, Dino Osratti, spokesman for the Steubenville diocese, said the church would release names of priests accused after death. He later clarified to say the diocese had not yet decided whether to release those names, but said the diocese would likely do so.

“At this point, we haven’t made a definitive answer to that,” Osratti said. “At one point, we were thinking about putting every name out there to bring attention to anyone who might have been abused. The other thinking is if that person cannot defend themselves” from the accusation, the name should not be made public.

The Youngstown diocese announced in early September that it would release a comprehensive list following the release of the Pennsylvania report. Unclear is whether that list would include priests accused after death. The Youngstown diocese hopes that revealing the names of priests could trigger in someone memories of being abused and prompt them to seek help, a spokesman said.

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A spokesman for the Diocese of Cleveland, which is Ohio’s largest with nearly 700,000 members, says it provided Cuyahoga County prosecutors all relevant files during a months-long grand jury investigation similar to Pennsylvania’s in 2002. The diocese that year posted a list of 22 priests who had been accused of child sex abuse.

Unlike Pennsylvania, prosecutors in Cleveland never produced a report about the grand jury’s findings.

In a 2003 court decision denying a Cleveland television station’s request to obtain records presented to the grand jury, a judge wrote that prosecutors had identified more than 1,000 possible victims of sexual abuse and 496 possible offenders, including 143 priests. Sixty-four of the priests were living in the Cleveland area at the time.

Associated Press reporters Mark Gillispie and John Seewer contributed reporting. Contact this reporter at will.garbe@coxinc.com or 937-259-2086.

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