Catholic Bishop Anthony Taylor today revealed cases of “credible allegations” of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Little Rock, cases involving 12 priests dating back many years, all before the time of the current bishop. Eight are dead
The statement was issued as an outgrowth of recent disclosures in other dioceses in the U.S. and provides more specifics on cases, which, Taylor noted, a previous bishop had referred to generally in a disclosure in 2004. The bishop acknowledges payments have been made to victims and says a full report will eventually be made on the amounts paid.
None of those named work in the priesthood today.
The Diocese compiled a list of frequently asked questions on the matter.
Here’s the Diocese release:
Today Bishop Anthony B. Taylor released a list of clergy who have had assignments at some point in Arkansas and against whom there are credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. The list is preliminary, the result of an internal review, and it is subject to being updated pending the results of an independent review of diocesan files this fall by the Kinsale Management Consulting firm.
In his statement Bishop Taylor expresses deep concern for anyone who has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, or anyone representing the Church. He says the Church needs to be “a safe place where those who have been abused in the past can find understanding, healing and hope,” and he commits to offering whatever assistance the Diocese of Little Rock can provide.
Bishop Taylor’s statement follows and attached is a “Frequently Asked Questions” document with additional information.
“In the wake of the recent scandals in the Church, I have decided to provide an accounting of cases here in Arkansas and how these allegations have been handled locally — because it is simply the right thing to do. This list is being published in the interest of transparency and to bring the truth into the light. It is my hope that these disclosures might bring healing to the victims and their families and encourage as-yet unknown victims to come forward.
“In my own name and in the name of the Church, I would like to apologize to all victims for the abuse you have suffered and for the way that Church leadership has sometimes failed you in the past. I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure that this never happens again.
“The Diocese is continuing to examine its files and conduct additional investigations. We have also reached out to the Attorney General, and we plan to cooperate fully with any investigation that she might request. So that we will know going forward that all clergy abuse cases have been identified and objectively reviewed, I have also arranged for an independent review of all the clergy personnel files and other relevant files by Kinsale Management Consulting, an independent investigative firm that specializes in this kind of work. This review will also examine how the bishops and other religious superiors at the time handled any allegations of sexual abuse that they received. It is my hope that this independent review will be completed and the findings ready to be shared with the public in December.
“As we consider this list of names and experience the shock of knowing that these priests preyed on so many victims, we need also to honor the courage of those who have come forward to share the most painful experiences of their entire life. My heart goes out to all who carry deep wounds of this sort. It often takes years for victims of trauma to come to terms with the abuse they have suffered and ask for help. It takes much courage to make this admission and it takes trust. And trust is something that gets twisted and manipulated by the abuser, as well as by the institutions that helped protect the abuser. So stepping forward is that much more difficult and will not occur until the victim feels safe and is confident that he or she will be heard. And that is the task before the Church today. Safe environment means not only a place where no one will be abused going forward, it also means creating a safe place where those who have been abused in the past can find understanding, healing and hope.
“The following list is the product of our own initial internal review of clergy personnel files as well as consultation with the Diocesan Review Board. Despite our best efforts, we know there may be some inaccuracies at this time. This list will be posted on our website (www.dolr.org/clergy-disclosure-list) along with additional information regarding the cleric, and it will be updated upon the conclusion of Kinsale Management Consulting’s independent investigation of our files:
“1. Priests against whom credible allegations have been substantiated, either through their own admission or proven by means of a thorough investigation by the Diocese of Little Rock. None of these men have been in active ministry since the implementation of our safe environment policies in 2002. We are offering or have offered assistance to their known victims.
· Donald Althoff. Left ministry in 1995. Served 1982-1995. 1 known victim. [He worked until recently at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center as a counselor, but is no longer employed there, a spokesman said. As to questions about the hospital’s knowledge of his past, the spokesman said leadership had changed since he was hired but decisions of past leadership were being reviewed. Althoff issued a statement:
“The Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arkansas recently released the names of priests who have been accused of inappropriate relationships with minors. My name was on that list due to my involvement with a minor female 30 years ago. My conduct was wrong. At the time, I disclosed my actions to the Bishop and after evaluation and treatment, it was determined that the event was not related to any desire to be with minors; it was, however, directly related to my extremely poor judgment. After taking responsibility, and after being assured that the church would provide full support to the young woman and her family, I returned to my duties as a priest in a different parish. Several years later, I decided to leave the priesthood to pursue a more traditional life. Ultimately, I became married and was blessed to have three wonderful daughters. While our marriage did not last, my former spouse and I remain close and have continued to raise our daughters as a team. Thanks to the loving support of many family and friends, our daughters are weathering this news as well as can be expected. I pray for continued healing for all parties who have been hurt by my actions and I ask for privacy for my daughters.”
· Joseph Correnti. Served 1972-2002. 2 known victims. Admitted guilt in a general way in response to a question in 2002 the day before his suicide, though in the absence of any specific allegation and without revealing the names of any of his victims. Direct allegations against him were not received until 2014.
· Nicholas Fuhrmann, OSB. Removed and barred from active ministry and retired to Subiaco Abbey in 2002. Served in Arkansas 1980-1981 and 1994-2002. 8 known victims.
· Paul Haas. Died 1978. Served in Arkansas 1964-1965. No known victims in Arkansas, but multiple victims in Tennessee.
· Anthony McKay, CSSp. Dismissed from the priesthood and religious life in 2004. Died 2015. Served in Arkansas 1991-2001. No known victims in Arkansas, multiple victims elsewhere.
· Timothy Sugrue, SM. Dismissed from the priesthood and religious life in 2005. Military chaplain in Blytheville, 1978-1979. 1 known victim.
· Robert Torres. Removed from ministry in 1994. Served 1966-1994. 5 known victims.
· Patrick Walsh, MSC. Died 2011. Removed from ministry in 2004. Served 1976-1987. 1 known victim.
“2. Priests about whom unsubstantiated though credible allegations of abuse of a minor have been received. These may be unsubstantiated because the accused was deceased at the time that the allegation was made, or because there is not enough information on file to substantiate the allegation—but, nonetheless, the Diocese considers the allegations to be credible and is offering or has offered assistance to their known victims.
Robert Dagwell. Died 1997. Removed from ministry in 1986. Served in Arkansas 1954-1986. Specific number of victims unknown.
John McDaniel. Died 1974. Served 1955-1974. 3 known victims.
Edward Mooney. Died 2009, left ministry in 1971. Served 1949-1971. 2 known victims.
Francis Zimmerer, OSB. Died 1984, from Subiaco Abbey. Served 1932-1983. No known victims in Arkansas, 3 known victims in Texas.
“As context for what we currently know: Over the course of the last 70 years, approximately 700 priests have served for varying lengths of time in Arkansas. Of those, 12 have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of minors, and 9 of those abused minors while serving in Arkansas. The vast majority of these cases appear to have involved fondling, but a few case involved more than that. While it is no excuse, it is important for our faithful to know that none of these offenses occurred later than the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. I should add that during these last 70 years there have been other priests who have left ministry for personal reasons or have been dismissed from ministry for reasons having nothing to do with the abuse of minors—for instance, misconduct with adults — and should not be treated as such. Moreover, over the course of these years we have investigated complaints of other imprudent acts which, at least based on what we currently know, did not rise to the level of sexual abuse.
“If you or anyone you know has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, or other representative of the Church, know that we want you to come forward, and we want to help. Please contact the civil authorities first by calling the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline (800-482-5964). And then please call or email our diocesan contacts: Dcn. Matthew Glover, chancellor for canonical affairs (501-664-0340, ext. 361; firstname.lastname@example.org) or Drs. George or Sherry Simon, victims assistance coordinators (501-664-0340, ext. 425). This reporting information is also on our website and posted at all of our parishes and schools. I am deeply concerned to see to it that we offer whatever assistance we can provide.
“Let us all pray for one another during these most trying times in our Church. But let us pray most especially for the victims and their families — they are the ones who are hurting the most.”
In 2016, Bishop Taylor revealed two cases of past sexual abuse.
Criminal prosecutions aren’t possible in abuse cases involving minors after a victim turns 28.
Diocese employees met Aug. 31 following the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report on priest abuse in the state. Arkansas Catholic reported:
Deacon Matthew Glover, chancellor for canonical affairs, also shared information and responded to questions. He assists Bishop Taylor with the Diocese of Little Rock’s compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and its related Essential Norms that can be found on dolr.org under Safe Environment.
Following the two-hour meeting, Bishop Taylor presided at a Mass with the diocesan staff that was for the intentions of the victims and survivors of sexual abuse and their families.
The bishop delivered this homily at a mass following the meeting. Among his remarks:
I have already spoken on numerous occasions about clergy sexual abuse, and to cover all that terrain again would make for a very long homily. We have safe environment policies which we enacted decades ago and have updated several times since then. These policies have served us well and we have done a good job of protecting minors, especially since our implementation in 2002 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. But unfortunately the same cannot be said about incidents of misconduct with adults, regarding which I have had to deal with some painful situations during my 10 years here so far.
Even so, we really have done our best to provide help to victims of clergy sexual abuse of minors in the past. We have a very responsive hotline, we take every allegation or even expression of concern very seriously and we cooperate fully with the state of Arkansas and fulfill all of our reporting obligations.
An organization that publicizes abusive priests faulted the bishop in 2016 for the handling of one case of reported abuse. There was also a furor about the dismissal of a popular Little Rock priest for professional misconduct.
A closer analysis of the priests’ service likely will produce indications that they were reassigned but continued duties as a priest after allegations were made, including at a school in at least one case. Bishop Taylor’s FAQ included this pointed response:
How did the bishops of the Diocese of Little Rock handle allegations received in the
Archbishop Sartain (2000-2006), Msgr. Hebert (administrator 2006-2008) and Bishop Taylor (2008 to present) acted decisively whenever allegations were received—and all verified cases of offenses committed since 2002 have involved misconduct with adults or imprudent acts that did not rise to the level of sexual abuse (i.e., not crimes against children). The way allegations were handled by Bishop McDonald (1972-2000) and Bishop Fletcher (1946-1972) is currently under review, especially since they served prior to the 2002 implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and most of the known cases occurred during their tenure
Noted: Several of the former priests listed here have been in the news before because of civil lawsuits.