San Jose Diocese Names 15 Clergy Accused of Child Sexual Abuse, But Critics Say the List Falls Short

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Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph in San Jose. (David Leigh Ellis/Wikipedia)

The Diocese of San Jose released the names Thursday of 15 clergy who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.

“I express my deepest apologies for the actions of those who were in positions of authority and who violated that sacred trust by abusing children,” the San Jose Bishop Patrick McGrath said in a statement Thursday. “The sexual abuse of children and young people is an appalling crime and a sin.”

Ten of the clergy on the list are deceased. The remaining five have been permanently banned from the ministry, according to the diocese.

The release of names comes amid renewed scrutiny of the Roman Catholic Church's long-running sexual abuse scandals sparked by a recent Pennsylvania grand jury report.

The report was released in August and is considered to be one of the most comprehensive investigations of church sexual abuse in the U.S. The Pennsylvania grand jury found that allegations went back some 70 years and called out more than 300 priests, some of whom are now at the highest levels of leadership.

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In response, dioceses across California have made an effort to reassure parishioners that the church is taking proactive measures. Earlier this month, the Diocese of San Bernardino, which is east of Los Angeles, released the names of 34 priests who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. The bishop of the Diocese of Oakland, Michael C. Barber, wrote in a blog post he will follow suit within about 45 days.

McGrath had announced his plans to disclose the names in August. The release of those names followed four listening sessions McGrath held with parishioners throughout the diocese.

Published in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, the list includes where each priest worked, the allegations made against them and when the claims were reported to the diocese. The dates on the reports range from 1976 to 2018. For several of the priests listed, there were multiple allegations over extended periods of time.

"We have attempted to make this list as accurate and complete as possible," McGrath said in the statement. An independent audit of priest personnel files will start next month, he added.

"Should additional credible allegations surface during the investigation, those names will be added to the list that I am providing today," McGrath said.

The release is a clear sign of the diocese's effort to reassure its parishioners that it is taking proactive measures.

In San Francisco, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone has also recently held listening sessions at parishes and is leaning towards releasing a list, too, said communications director Mike Brown.

"Our vigilance, training and prevention efforts are ongoing and we continually seek to improve them," Brown told the San Jose Mercury News. "There can no longer be a culture of secrecy in the church, but one of transparency and accountability."

Among victims' support groups, however, reactions to the disclosure were mixed.

"I applaud the list and like the fact it includes the places where the accused priests worked," said Tim Stier, a former priest and longtime activist pushing for church reform. He noted that the San Jose diocese has responded more proactively than others.

"That will help victims who have never come forward to remember and possibly come forward," Stier added.

But he expressed doubt that much would change unless the church addressed the root of the problem, in what he described as the current "all-male, pseudo-celibate, secretive, hierarchical culture."

"As long as that system remains in place, abuse will continue," Stier said.

Joey Piscitelli, who heads the regional Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), called the diocese's decision a "calculated first step." Releasing the names, he said, is an attempt to "show they're being good and upfront and forthright, when in fact I think they're trying to beat investigations by the state to the punch."

He also said the list falls blatantly short, noting that it leaves out a number of well-known offenders, including Jesuit priests in San Jose who have been accused or sued.

"Just off the top of my head, I can think of four names that they left off the list," Piscitelli said, referring to one of the overlooked priests as a "notorious pedophile."

He called the release "the tip of the iceberg."

"It is some kind of attempt to give names, but they do leave names out, and I think that's intentional and I think if they were more forthright, they would list all the names," Piscitelli said.