The Catholic Diocese of Fargo has released a list of clergy, deacons and religious leaders accused of sexual abuse of children. In an accompanying statement, Bishop John Folda said “even one instance of abuse would be too many, and I know this list of clergy and religious (leaders) is a cause of deep sadness to us all.”
We stop short of saying it must be a difficult time for the church, since it’s obviously a much more difficult time for any abuse victims. The diocese should not be commended for releasing the names, since doing so is right and only one part of the process to heal these wounds.
And while we appreciate the church’s list – accompanied by pre-written comments from Folda and answers to a list of frequently asked questions – we believe the effort still falls short.
For example: The list shows the names of the clergymen accused via substantial allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. Included is the year of ordination and also a “status” section; most of the accused are dead, although those still alive have been removed from the ministry.
What’s missing is where those clergymen served. And that’s important, because the people of Pembina, for instance, deserve a reminder that Jules Belleau possibly served there for a time between 1925 and 1973. And people in Grand Forks deserve to know Richard Sinner apparently was pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center at UND and also a chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital at times in the 1950s. And that Julius Binder possibly served in Grand Forks at times between 1939 and 1991.
The trouble is that this is too important to not list where these alleged crimes occurred. The diocese has left it up to the media to try to track it down, instead of simply telling us – and therefore the public – definitively where these men served.
In his release, Folda said it is his hope that “this release of names will open the way to a purification of our Church, especially in our own diocese. It has been said that we must understand our past in order to move forward into the future, and the Church must acknowledge this stain in its past so that it can be purified and move ahead with God’s grace.”
True. But a note sent to the media said “this will be the ONLY INFORMATION RELEASED” – the all-capital emphasis was added by the diocese. It also stressed that the diocese “will not be making any other statements or be answering questions. The message from Bishop Folda and the FAQs will suffice.”
Confession is good for the soul, and the church must declare its ways. This acknowledgement is good for the diocese if it hopes to move forward from these alleged transgressions. But taking one or two extra steps – listing more information about these men’s locations and backgrounds, and then being open to further questions from the media and the public – would have better portrayed how dedicated the church is to the healing process.