8 Investigates

Advocates claim names missing from list of clergy accused of child sex abuse

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) -- A group that documents abuse in the Catholic Church says names are missing from a list of accused sex abusers recently released by the Diocese of Richmond. 

8News has been combing over the Diocese of Richmond list and comparing it to an online group's that has been tracking abuse allegations for years. 

"It is really important not to let names fall through the cracks," said Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org. 

McKiernan spoke to 8News over Skype from Massachusetts about BishopAccountability.org, a website which maintains a database of priests and nuns accused of abuse. 

"We're careful to include in the database people who have been publicly accused of abusing children," McKiernan said when asked what criteria the site uses to create the database. 

"We use as evidence," he continued, "reports in publicly available court documents, reports in mainstream media." 

When reviewing the Bishop Accountability database for the Diocese of Richmond, 8News found five names on their list not found on the list provided by the Richmond Diocese's bishop last week. This includes an ex-priest on Virginia's sex offender registry and a nun convicted of molesting a 10-year-old boy in Virginia Beach. 

"I think it is important that we have all the information on people, one way or another, associated with the Diocese," McKiernan told 8News. 

McKiernan says it's important for helping the victims heal. 

"One of the reasons it is important for the list to be complete is that it is hurtful," he said, "honestly when someone is left off and it is empowering or valuable for the survivor when it is on the list."

Since the release of the list, 8News has been requesting an interview with Bishop Barry Knestout. We were told Bishop Knestout was not in Richmond on Friday. 

8News did get more details about who and how the list was created. The factors: admissions, convictions, civil settlements and the number of victims. 

As for who sat on the review board, 8News was told that they were made up mostly of lay people, not employed by the diocese, including experts in the protection of minors, professionals in civil and church law as well as mental health. 

"I think we have to acknowledge the review board is named by the Bishop himself," said McKiernan. 

After years of Catholic Church covers and shuffling of priests, McKiernan is still a little weary of the process. Bishop Accountability finds the list to be a good start and told 8News the Richmond Diocese provided some names new to their database.

Still, the group believes there's still work to be done. 

"The Bishop in Richmond could really go the extra mile and really begin to provide people with true transparency," McKiernan told 8News when asked how the Bishop could mend the situation. 

"Provide information, details about each of these cases even going so as far as to provide documents about each case," he then said. 

For instance, the Archdiocese of Baltimore provides a detailed account of the allegations or charges against each priest on its list. 

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, told 8News they have received calls from some potential victims that claim their abuser is not on the Richmond list. 

Victims who believe their abuser is not on the Richmond Diocese list are encouraged to contact Virginia's clergy abuse hotline.  

The office of Attorney General Mark Herring released the following statement regarding the hotline to 8News: 

The hotline accepts reports involving faith leaders from any religion or denomination and reports can be made online at www.VAClergyHotline.com or by phone to 1-833-454-9064. We would encourage any survivor of clergy abuse, regardless of the religion or organization involved, to reach out through the hotline if they are ready to share their experience, or need to be connected to support or resources. Our office has also been in touch with SNAP and we appreciate their continued support and assistance in this matter. We have so much respect for individuals who choose to come forward and share their stories or experiences with our office, which is why it is so important that the hotline is staffed with personnel who have trauma informed and survivor centered training to make sure that everyone is treated with respect.

                                                                    -Attorney General Herring's Office 

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