DALLAS — Dallas Bishop Edward Burns pledged accountability, saying it is time for clergy to be the men they say they are, as he announced on Wednesday that the Dallas diocese will join 14 others in Texas that are releasing the names of priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1950.
“We will do our best to make this right,” he said of a sexual abuse scandal that has led to what he deems a crisis within the church.
“There is, for me, a clear sense that there’s some urgency,” he said. “We have to take some significant steps and I believe that’s exactly what we’re doing in the state of Texas.”
Burns said in February he made the decision to bring in a six-member investigative team from outside of Dallas, to look at personnel files of clergy members. The team includes former FBI agents, state troopers and law enforcement officers who are “not all Catholics” according to Burns.
“They are well-versed in the child sex abuse scandals of the church,” he added.
Since that time, revelations emerged about decades of alleged sexual abuse by former Cardinal Timothy McCarrick and an investigation by the Pennsylvania District Attorney revealed a troubling pattern of widespread abuse and coverup across the state.
The investigative team brought in by Burns has not yet completed its work, but, without hesitation, Burns said he could assure Dallas Catholics that “there are no priests in any parish in this diocese who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.”
On September 30, Texas’ bishops made the joint decision to review the files of all bishops, priests and deacons. By January 31, 2019, each bishop will publish a list of clergy who’ve been credibly accused.
A review board, made up of church members, has traditionally determined how to define a credible accusation. Uniformed statewide standards will be used, Burns said, and those standards will be further explained when the list of names is made public.
While Burns said he is confident there are no accused priests currently serving in the Dallas diocese, he did say because he is only responsible for Dallas, he cannot say whether someone who might have been credibly accused here went on to serve in other dioceses.
He added that he understands the anger that victims and their families feel toward the church. He said he feels tremendous sorrow that young and vulnerable people have not been protected.
“To the Catholic faithful who are absolutely embarrassed by what has happened in the church, I pledge to them that we are going to truly be accountable,” he said.