The Roman Catholic diocese that covers the entire state of Vermont came under fire Monday from a prominent group that advocates for survivors of priest abuse. It is pressing the diocese to publicize a list of names of predator priests who worked in the state.
“This is about the safety of kids,” said David Clohessy of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
SNAP accuses the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington of dragging its heels when it comes to releasing the names of former priests who, evidence shows, hurt kids.
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A group of seven community members appointed by Bishop Christopher Coyne is currently poring over personnel files, believed to be covering roughly 25 or 30 priests, many going back decades.
Clohessy, who said he is himself a survivor of priest abuse in Missouri, told reporters Monday he believes Bishop Coyne should’ve made the priests’ names public by now, adding that he wants to make sure the list is exhaustive.
“What’s he going to tell the mom who comes forward 10 or 20 years from now and says, ‘A month before you finally got around to releasing that list, one of those priests assaulted my 10-year-old son?’” Clohessy asked.
In a written statement Monday, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington said it had hoped the report would’ve been published earlier this year, but the independent review committee needed extra time to do a thorough and accurate job going over the files of credibly-accused past priests.
“We’ve been doing our work,” said Mike Donoghue, a longtime Vermont journalist who is serving on the review committee, along with one priest abuse survivor and one non-Catholic.
Donoghue said the group is almost done with its work, and expects the names to be out by the end of the month.
“The files are massive,” Donoghue noted, explaining why the review took longer than initially expected. “A thousand pages, some of them. And you have to look at every piece of paper.”
In October 2018, when Bishop Coyne announced the formation of the task force, he put no timetable on the citizen group’s work.
Coyne said last year that he wanted the file reviews to be done in a transparent manner, and wanted survivors to know their experiences were being treated with seriousness and respect. The bishop also noted no priests currently serving in parish leadership here were credibly accused of wrongdoing.
“We were responsible for these heinous and sinful acts,” Coyne said last year of past priest abuse. “The only way, I guess, we can get people to trust us is to stop this stuff, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
As the list of predator priests nears release, Coyne has consistently said measures now in place make Catholic churches in Vermont very safe places today.