The Diocese of Brooklyn must release the criteria its leaders used to determine the credibility of sex-abuse accusations against the dozens of Catholic priests included in a list of alleged predators church officials unveiled this month, according to a lawyer for abuse victims.
“Many of my clients are looking at the list with skepticism,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based attorney with local clients alleging abuse at the hands of Kings County Catholic clergymen. “The Brooklyn Diocese has not stated what criteria it has used to determine if a priest should be listed as a perpetrator, or sex abuser.”
The Catholic Church’s 166-year-old Kings County diocese on Feb. 15 published a list of 108 clergymen — a whopping 5-percent of its borough priests — facing sex-abuse accusations that diocesan officials believe “may be true.” The list features additional information including the named priests’ past parish postings and their current status within the church, according to the diocese, whose leader said he published the list in an effort to help victim’s heal.
“I have met with many victims who have told me that more than anything, they want an acknowledgment of what was done to them,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. “This list gives that recognition and I hope it will add another layer of healing for them on their journey toward wholeness.”
But Garabedian — whose role in exposing sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Boston was featured in the 2015 film “Spotlight” — doubts the thoroughness of the local diocese’s list, due to the church’s history of covering up sex abuse within its ranks, and its strong opposition to the Child Victims Act, legislation extending the statute of limitations for sex crimes, which Gov. Cuomo signed into law this month after the bill languished in Albany for 13 years.
“We’re looking at this list with skepticism, since history has taught us the Catholic Church cannot self police,” he said.
The lawyer suggested the diocese’s list — and the settlement program for abuse victims it launched in 2017 — is more spin control than sincere apology, and said a more honest expression of remorse would be naming priests who helped cover up the alleged abuse in addition to identifying the purported predators.
“It’s damage control by the church,” Garabedian said. “If they were really interested in healing, they would release all information related to the cover-up and sex abuse of children.”
Whatever criteria diocese leaders used resulted in the list including the late Mgsr. Thomas Brady, who beat accusations of sexual abuse against two teen boys when a grand jury failed to indict him due to lack of evidence following his 2011 arrest.
But even if the diocese released the criteria it used to separate credible accusations from non-credible ones, there is no reason to assume that information would be accurate, according to another lawyer for local abuse victims, who said the only true measure of guilt will come from litigating the many sex-assault claims currently waged against Brooklyn priests.
“We will figure that out as litigation proceeds,” said Jayne Conroy, a partner at Manhattan firm Simmons Hanly Conroy. “It’s one of the reasons or litigation, they can tell us what the criteria is.”
A spokesman for the Diocese of Brooklyn denied Garabedian’s allegation that the church refused to share its criteria for determining the credibility of sex-abuse accusations, but did not respond to follow-up questions about what the criteria was, or whom officials shared it with.