The Roman Catholic Diocese of Yakima posted a page with a document listing names of priests and deacons with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor on Wednesday, July 10 — more than 17 years following the Boston Globe’s investigation of the scandal titled, “Spotlight Investigation: Abuse in the Catholic Church.”
In Central Washington, there are cases of abuse that date back from 1955 with a significant majority reported over the past 20 years.
According to Bishop Joseph Tyson, who has been the high ranking official of the Central Washington ministry since 2011, the release of information was an effort to help reach out from the past and encourage persons sexually abused by clergy or by anyone working on behalf of the Church to come forward.
It was also as a result of the media coverage during this past year, which forced Pope Francis not to only accept the resignation of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C., from the College of Cardinals, but was found guilty of multiple allegations for sexually abusing minors and adult seminarians dating back to the 1970s.
Catholic faithful are right to question how such sexual abuse crimes can keep happening in their churches and, by the clergy there to faithfully serve them with spiritual insight of heavenly enlightenment.
The credibility of the church continues to be called into serious question as abuse still stains the altar, while religious leaders fail to act properly or cover up the incidents.
McCarrick is the most senior church official in modern times to be laicized — commonly referred to as defrocking — and is believed to be the first American Cardinal ever laicized for sexual misconduct on Feb. 16.
“There are 195 Catholic Dioceses in the U.S., and less than half of them have presently disclosed a public account of those responsible for the abuse,” Rev. Msgr., Chancellor and Moderator of the Curia Robert Siler acknowledged.
Within this year, 50-75 percent of church dioceses, which are overseen by bishops, agree and are expected to announce or plan to produce a similar register, he added.
This is a crucial time for bishops to establish public transparency on the sexual abuse of minors’ issue — and whether people can trust the Church and their local parishes will do the right thing now when it comes to accountability to ensure the safety of its worshipers.
“All of our pastors, of course, are responsible for overseeing the faith and garment efforts of their own to make sure that background checks are done, that training is done for volunteers and employees,” Siler voiced.
Having been ordained as a priest in 2001 and, beginning his ministry career in the Tri-Cities, the Monsignor possesses a uniquely qualified understanding of the embattled issues brought to light by the Globe’s investigation, as well as the cultural attributes of the lower valley.
He communicated his understanding about how high the Diocese of Yakima Hispanic rate is and that there may be some cultural differences, along with a history of being differential to priests.
“It can seem, at times, as though folks are maybe a little too trusting, and we need to be vigilant. Of course, we know that abuse happens at the family level anyway. But just culturally, I think that sometimes, our Hispanic persons may not be as vigilant because they have grown up in a culture that sees the priest as always right. And, unfortunately, we know, and we’re talking about a small minority of priests overall that have abused. But we want that number to be zero,” Siler said.
Subsequent reporting, investigations and public allegations of sexual abuse by clergy have not faded away over time. In fact, people are finding the strength to come forward and speak out about the harm they have endured.
Understanding this turbulent past provides an opportunity for everyone to faithfully learn how to prevent this from happening again and allow us to move forward in the healing process, together.
Anyone sexually abused by clergy or by those working on behalf of the Church is encouraged to contact the Yakima Diocese Victim Assistance Coordinator which is also the hotline phone number at 1-888-276-4490, or local law enforcement.
Patrick Shelby for the Sunnyside Sun editorial board. PShelby@sunnysidesun.com