Diocese of Arlington annouces review of all clergy files

Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington VA CNA File photo 1 CNA Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, VA. | CNA

The Diocese of Arlington has announced that it is conducting a review of all clergy personnel files and that it will publish a list priests and deacons who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor. The review was announced Sept. 26 in the diocesan newspaper. 

"Our prayer is that publishing the names of those credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors will bring victims healing and consolation in the Lord and inspire those who have not yet come forward to tell their story," diocesan head of communication Billy Atwell said in the statement.

The review, which is already underway, includes all priests and deacons who have served or are currently serving in the diocese. On its release, the list of those clergy who have been credibly accused will include those who are no longer in active ministry, as well as those who are currently serving, should there be any.

"It is our hope that this decision will help assure the faithful of the diocese's commitment to accountability," Atwell said.

The Diocese of Arlington conducted similar reviews of its files in 2003, covering the years dating back to the founding of the diocese in 1974. A further review was carried out in 2011 to ensure that nothing had been overlooked and to check that all appropriate reports had been made to law enforcement.

According to Atwell, the diocese reported "a number of credible accusations" as part of the John Jay Study in 2003. This study, which led to the publication of the John Jay Report, was commissioned by the National Review Board, a body created to advise the U.S. bishops' conference in the wake of the sexual abuse crisis of the early 2000's. The study analyzed allegations of sexual abuse in Catholic dioceses in United States.

Since his installation as the fourth Bishop of Arlington in October 2016, Bishop Michael Burbidge has regularly met with survivors of sexual abuse both in individual appointments and as part of a support group run by the diocese.

The diocese said that Burbidge had taken a number of other steps in response to the allegations against Archbishop Theodore McCarrick and the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report earlier this summer.  In late August he celebrated a public Mass for the victims of sexual abuse and for their healing, and sent out a letter to the entire diocese reiterating the process for handling allegations of sexual abuse.

In early September, Burbidge met with the seminarians of the diocese to express his commitment to their well-being. At that event, according to the diocese, the bishop had a "frank, open and respectful dialogue" regarding the recent scandals.

After that meeting, Burbidge sent a letter to the parents of the seminarians, stating his commitment to their sons' protection and his personal confidence in the seminaries to which they were being sent.

In addition to working with the Diocesan Review Board, Atwell said the bishop was committed to an ongoing schedule of meetings with priests, religious, and lay people in the diocese to discuss what further measures can be taken to improve safeguarding policies.

The Diocese of Arlington has about 600,000 Catholics across 70 parishes.

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