Boston-based watchdog group BishopAccountability.org visited the headquarters of the Diocese of Cleveland Friday. Joined by local Catholic organizations, activists demanded that Bishop Richard Lennon release the names of over sixty clergy accused of sexual abuse in Northeast Ohio.
According to the Diocese, 118 clerics have been accused of abuse, but the church has released only 45 names.
“I believe Bishop Lennon is hiding one of the biggest lists of unregistered sexual offenders in the state,” says Anne Barrett Doyle, co-founder of Bishop Accountability. “Cleveland has the biggest gap between the number of priests accused and the number of priests that are public. Naming them publicly is the most effective way to keep children safe.”
Lennon has been on the group’s radar since its inception. He served as interim head of the Archdiocese of Boston in 2002, when its bishop resigned over revelations about sex abuse at the hands of priests.
Doyle co-founded the organization in 2003, when sexual abuse by clergy became a visible national cause. Its website gathers data from hundreds of parishes across the country, including local churches. A database collects the names of church affiliates accused of abuse, with details about the cases and links to further information. An archive contains thousands of investigative reports, articles, essays, and commentary.
The site lists two dozen dioceses that have released full lists of accused priests, including Ohio’s Toledo and Peoria. Co-founder Terence McKiernan, who also visited Cleveland, said its diocese is “one of the most secretive dioceses in the United States.”
McKiernan and Doyle made a presentation at the steps of St. John’s Cathedral downtown, then walked across the street to deliver a written request to Lennon in the Diocese offices. A receptionist took the letter, and the delegation did not meet the bishop.
Local protesters included members of Code Purple and Charlie Feliciano, the Cleveland Diocese’s former director of legal council, who split with the Church over Lennon’s approach to abuse allegations and investigations. Feliciano, a practicing lawyer, says the Diocese pushed to keep incidents as internal matters, while he involved police.
“If every other criminal has to do it, [clergy] should too,” says Feliciano. “I have a granddaughter who’s eight years old. And I would want to know if there’s an abuser who’s a cleric or lay person [working in a parish]. I think the Diocese has a moral and ethical responsibility to tell who these people are.” — D.X. Ferris
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