“Lawyers suing the Catholic church and priests accused of sexually abusing parishioners says the local diocese’s refusals to name accused priests here is “abominable” and indicative of “a culture of cover-up.”
The Diocese of Ogdensburg’s Bishop Terry LaValley said in an interview with North Country Public Radio that he has not released the names of many of the priests who have served in the North Country diocese and who face accusations of sexual assault or rape because that’s what victims have asked him to do.
“I personally have had at least three instances where I met with victims and they were almost pleading with me, do not, do not release his name and certainly not their name,” LaValley told NCPR’s Brian Mann.
“For various reasons, I am not going to publicize the names,” he said. “My concern is keeping the folks, young folks and vulnerable people out of harm’s way,” LaValley said. “And justice. So, I have to sort through in my own mind, is my publicizing the names going to be a help in the ways of justice? Is it going to be a help in keeping out of harm’s way?” LaValley said.
But an attorney at Jeff Anderson & Associates, a Minnesota-based law firm that specializes in suits on behalf of people who accuse priests of sexual assault and rape, says the bishop’s reasoning is “deceptive” and “dishonest.”
“Diocese of Ogdensburg Bishop Terry LaValley’s statements to North Country Public Radio are archaic and abominable and showcase a culture of cover-up and lack of understanding,” said Mike Reck of Anderson and Associates.
“His purported reasoning for choosing to keep the identities of the credibly accused abusers secret is deceptive, duplicative and dishonest,” Reck said.
“Of course the identities of the survivors of these crimes against children are to be protected. That is not and has never been the issue,” he said. “That safety protocol to protect the survivors is routinely practiced by all Dioceses including the ones that disclose the alleged perpetrator identities.”
Reck, whose firm has an interest in finding alleged victims of abuse, says “disclosure of credibly accused clerics is vital for the sake of survivor healing and public safety.”
“Well remember, we’re not talking about individuals who’ve gone by and large through a trial. So I can’t be an enforcer in that sense. I can’t be the judge and jury,” LaValley said to NCPR’s Mann. “I rely on the authorities to provide the kind of prosecution or justice that would be important.”
“Bishop LaValley’s purported solution to the crisis (notifying only other bishops of the identity and whereabouts of known abusers) takes the situation from bad to worse,” Reck said in a press release Friday. “It merits noting that he actually just proposed that a good course of action is to tell another priest, but hide the information from families who could be exposed to the alleged abusers. Point blank, this callous and calculated response creates a public safety nightmare.”
LaValley conceded in the interview that the Roman Catholic Church did not live up to its responsibility as a bastion of morality as the scandal was discovered and unfolded year after year, while many church leaders moved to protect accused clergy, punishing them little if at all.
“The Church screwed up big time and people have been hurt immeasurably. How many times can I say I’m sorry for all that happened? What else can I do, I don’t know.”
The two-part interview with Bishop LaValley can be heard and read at NCPR.org.
The Diocese did not immediately return requests for comment.
Asked if the bishop or the diocese wanted to make a statement about the Anderson release, Deacon Jim Crowley said they would have no comment”