Syracuse Catholic Diocese releases list of priests accused of abuse

Dec 3, 2018

The Syracuse Catholic Diocese Monday released a list of priests with credible allegations of child sexual abuse against them, going back decades. The list contains the names of 57 priests, 38 of whom are deceased.

Bishop Robert Cunningham announced his decision to release the list in a letter to the Catholic community over the weekend. Cunningham had originally withheld releasing the list, saying that there was disagreement among victims on whether to make the names of the accused priests public. In his letter, Cunningham said "this practice has become a roadblock to moving out local Church forward." 

"It just came to me really after a lot of consultation and prayer, that this was the way to go at this time," Cunningham said in an interview with WRVO Monday. "It seemed to be the right time.  And I’m hoping it will help bring healing and wholeness to victims and bring a renewed sense of trust to the church."

Cunningham also said it wouldn't be fair to his successor to leave him with the decision. Cunningham turned 75 in June, and according to Canon law, submitted his letter of resignation to the pope. A successor has not yet been named. 

There are a few other factors at play. A program to compensate victims is winding down. Cunningham also said it would be better for cCatholics to hear it from him, instead of the state. The New York State Attorney General is investigating allegations of clergy abuse, and the state legislature is considering changing the statute of limitations for people reporting abuse. 

Attorney Mike Reck, who represents victims of clergy abuse, including some in the Syracuse Diocese, said Monday the timeline is significant.

"Are they trying to get out in front of it? Of course they are. Is that a good thing? Absolutely. Every single step that can be taken to make kids safer is better," Reck said.

Of the 57 priests named, only 19 are still alive. Cunningham said all of the allegations, except two, happened before 1991. 

"I don’t know whether I can ever say it’ll be over. But we have to continue to keep working at it, and keep our minds clear. And continue to protect young people and continue to reach out to victims," Cunningham said.

The list released Monday does not say which parishes the accused priests served, or when the accusations against the priests were made. But the Utica Observer-Dispatch reports that at least 18 priests on the list had ties to Utica and Oneida County. The Oswego Palladium-Times reported nine priests with ties to Oswego, while 38 priests on the list were reported to have ties to Broome and Chenango counties

The Syracuse Diocese covers all of Broome, Chenango, Cortland, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga and Oswego counties.

The diocese says there are no active priests in the diocese that have credible allegations against them. 

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