Cleveland Catholic Diocese working to minimize potential for sex abuse

CLEVELAND -- As the Catholic Church is putting stricter procedures in place, the Cleveland Catholic Diocese is aiding the church in its work to minimize the potential for sex abuse.  Nearly two dozen names have been added to a list of clergy in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese accused of child sex abuse Friday. Bishop Nelson Perez says the additional names are from old accusations.

The 22 new names brings the total number of accused clerics in the Cleveland Catholic Diocese to 51. Three are currently on administrative leave, pending a decision of removal from the Vatican and another, pending further investigation by an independent review board.

"This has been painful for the victims, for the church," Bishop Perez told FOX 8 News Reporter Kevin Freeman.

The head of the Cleveland Catholic Diocese, said he is profoundly sorry for the deep pain many victims endured after being sexually abused by members of the clergy.

"I wanted all the files to get reviewed, right -- and they were reviewed, every single priest file -- asking them is there anybody that needs to be on the list…that have cases against them that are more likely than not to have occurred," he said.

Friday, the Cleveland Diocese added 22 names to an existing list of 29 clergy who have substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse made against them. Bishop Perez said it is part of an ongoing process since 2002 to publish the names of accused priests and religious leaders who have been removed from ministry.

Of the 22 new names, 21 are priests and one is a deacon.

"I believe of the 22, all but six are deceased and all of them were either removed from ministry or left ministry at the time these allegations came in," said Perez.

The bishop said none of the clergy added to the list were actively serving in ministry.

Although Father Anthony Schuerger, pastor of St. Malachi Parish on Cleveland's west side since 1994, took a personal leave of absence last November.  He is now on administrative leave, accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor several decades ago.

"There are other communities and other organizations we all know unfortunately are dealing with this because this is a reality that is bigger than the church," said the bishop.

David Clohessy, the former national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests and current head of the group’s Missouri chapter, called Friday’s release a “long-overdue public relations effort” in response to those calls for more transparency.

“One of the nation’s most secretive dioceses has finally taken a ‘baby step’ forward by updating its minimal, vague list of credibly accused child molesting clerics,” Clohessy said in an emailed statement. “We call on law enforcement officials to scour this list and do all they can to investigate and prosecute church officials who commit and conceal this devastation. And we hope this move will prod those who have seen, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes and cover ups to step forward and contact secular authorities so kids will be safer.”

Bishop Perez said he believes since 2002, the Catholic Church has put strict procedures in place to minimize the potential for child sex abuse allegations in the future.

"It goes to civil authorities. It goes to an independent review board. A lot of work has been done in the last 18 years, which makes me feel comfortable," said Bishop Perez.

Click here to read Bishop Perez’s letter and the list of accused clergy.

Continuing coverage, here.

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