The Roman Catholic Church in Texas on Thursday released the names of almost 300 priests who it said had been credibly accused of child s*x abuse over nearly eight decades.
The action was the latest in a wave of disclosures by the church as it faces a series of federal and state investigations into its handling of s*xual misconduct.
The names were posted online by all 15 of the state’s dioceses and followed the publication in August of a bombshell report on clerical s*x abuse by the Pennsylvania attorney general that has spurred investigations of the church in more than a dozen other states.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the Archbishop of Galveston-Houston and the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement on Thursday that releasing the names of the accused was the right thing to do.
“The bishops of Texas have decided to release the names of these priests at this time because it is right and just and to offer healing and hope to those who have suffered,” the cardinal said. “On behalf of all who have failed in this regard, I offer my sincerest apology. Our church has been lacerated by this wound and we must take action to heal it.”
There are an estimated 8.5 million Catholics in Texas, according to the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, making it one of the most heavily Catholic states in the country. The church there has been in a state of crisis since dozens of local and federal agents raided the offices of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in November as part of an investigation into a s*xual abuse case.
Since the release of the Pennsylvania report, which detailed seven decades of alleged abuse by over 300 priests there, dozens of dioceses and religious provinces across the country have published the names of alleged abusers. More than a dozen states have also opened investigations into the church, although Texas is not among them.
On Thursday, Marc Rylander, a spokesman for Texas’ attorney general, Ken Paxton, said his office was prepared to respond to any request for assistance by local and federal law enforcement agencies.
“We have not received any such requests, but we are ready to provide assistance to local prosecutors in accordance with state law and original criminal jurisdiction,” Mr. Rylander said in an email. “No young person should ever live in fear of abuse, especially abuse from religious and spiritual leaders.”
The lists published on Thursday were prepared separately by each diocese, and each one takes a slightly different form. Many of the names dated to the middle of the 20th century some dioceses began their reviews at 1940 and others at 1950 and many, but not all, of the clerics listed have died. Some have resulted in prosecution.
Some lists contain limited detail about alleged abuse but many consist of little more than the names of clergymen and scant biographical information. The lists focus primarily on the alleged abuse of minors, although some contain references to allegations of s*xual harassment or abuse of adults.
Advocates for abuse survivors said they were disappointed by those shortcomings.
Paul Petersen, a spokesman in Dallas for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the overall lack of detailed information pointed to the need for state and federal law enforcement agencies to investigate the history of clerical s*x abuse in Texas.
“All of this is the fox guarding the henhouse,” he said. “Most of this has not been corroborated by the police department, so you have to scratch your head and say, ‘Where is the actual transparency?’”
Mr. Petersen also said he thought it was probable that there were more than 300 priests who had committed s*xual abuse in Texas since 1950. He pointed to a report in December by the Illinois attorney general that said the Catholic Church there had withheld the names of at least 500 priests accused of s*xually abusing minors.
There are 3.4 million Catholics in Illinois, according to the Catholic Conference of Illinois, or less than half as many as in Texas.
“I am skeptical,” he said. “I am not trying to make it bigger than it is, but I think the number 300 is crazy low.”
Few of the allegations reported on Thursday were made since 2002, when the church adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which led to a crackdown on clerical misconduct. That trend aligns with reports from other states but has been questioned by advocates for abuse survivors.
Patti Koo, who leads the San Antonio chapter of the survivors network, said that when she first heard her local diocese was going to release the names of credibly accused priests, she had been “a Pollyanna, talking a lot about hope.”
But reading the report produced by the Archdiocese of San Antonio on Thursday “leaves a really bad taste in your mouth,” she said.
“When I read the report I just thought, ‘Oh my god, this isn’t good — they can’t have no reports of s*xual abuse in the last 10 years, come on,’” she said. “I think we are a long way from justice, I really do.”