This is the story of two US Catholic bishops and a simple word: “transparency.”
One is the just-installed head of the Springfield MA diocese, Bishop Bill Byrne. The other is a New York native who now heads the South Carolina diocese, Bishop Robert Guglielmone.
These two prelates apparently differ radically in their interpretation of the word ‘transparency.’ Both of course have pledged, as has every single Catholic bishop for the last 20 years, to be ‘transparent’ in abuse cases.
Let’s start with Bryne.
Before he even took office, he promised to release the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused child molesting clerics even if the abuse reports against them came after they were dead.
The purpose, he said, is so that “true healing can begin.” “It’s not a luxury. It’s an absolute necessity to be able to provide people with the information that they need so that we can begin to bring healing to the victims,” Byrne explained.
He apparently has an appropriate and expansive view of who the victims of clergy sex abuse are: “When we talk about victims, we’re not just talking about the individual that experienced the devastation at the hands of somebody who should have been protecting them — a clergy person, or someone who worked for the church. We’re talking about their mom or dad. Their brothers and sisters. Their best friends.”
Good for Byrne. That’s real transparency – releasing the names of ALL predators. This should be common practice among bishops, but sadly, is not. Many of them split hairs, arguing that it’s unfair to ‘out’ deceased predators who can’t defend themselves.
“It’s not one hole in the ice, it’s a crack that spreads through the entire unit of the family and friends and the community. The tentacles go deep,” he said. “If we’re ever going to begin to heal, then the first step is, we have to be honest. We have to lay this out. … Transparency and communication. That’s what people are asking of us.”
And, we at Horowitz Law would add, that’s also what police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the public also DESERVE.
The diocese’s spokesman predicts the move – which is to be made public early next year – “will amount to a significant addition to our current list.”
Chancery staffer Jeffrey Trant echoed the bishop’s thinking: “Publishing the names of all credibly accused clerics provides survivors with information that may help with their healing process,” Trant said.
Good for Bryne, Trant and everyone involved in this transparency.
On the other hand, there’s Bishop Robert Guglielmone. He’s accused of molesting a child but he now says
—the Vatican has cleared him of wrongdoing,
—Rome has sent him a letter in which it claims that the sexual abuse allegation against (him) has no semblance of truth and is thus unfounded,”
—an unnamed law firm hired by Catholic leaders in New York investigated the allegations and provided its findings to the Vatican, but
—Guglielmone’s legal team claimed it has a sworn statement from a family member of the accuser that bolsters their defense, and
—the bishop’s lawyers said the accuser admitted that he made up the allegations in order to get money from the church.
In the news article that details much of this notes that “efforts to reach attorneys for Guglielmone were not immediately successful.” Here’s the problem: none of this is ‘transparent.’ None of it has been released to the press or the public. Not the letter from the Vatican. Not the supposed sworn statement from the accuser’s relative. Not the so-called ‘investigation’ by New York church officials. Not even the name of the lawyers who conducted that purported probe.
In fact, Guglielmone is even keeping his own staff in the dark about this. His current press secretary, Michael Acquilano, said “Charleston church officials do not know the name of the law firm that investigated the matter and haven’t seen a copy of the investigative report.”
It’s such a simple word: transparency. It’s so disappointing that unlike Byrne of Massachusetts, most bishops aren’t even transparent with the names of all the predator priests. And it’s so disappointing that most bishops, like Guglielmone of South Carolina, transparency goes out the window when they themselves are accused.