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Clergy abuse survivors urge Worcester diocese to name alleged abusers

The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Robert J. McManus, speaks at a news conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, March 9, 2004, when he was bishop-elect. McManus has met with those who were sexually abused by clergy at the diocese when they were minors. The diocese says meetings with the bishop last as long as the survivor wants and can involve multiple meetings.
File photo / Michael Dwyer
/
AP
The bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Worcester, Robert J. McManus, speaks at a news conference in Worcester, Massachusetts, March 9, 2004, when he was bishop-elect. McManus has met with those who were sexually abused by clergy at the diocese when they were minors. The diocese says meetings with the bishop last as long as the survivor wants and can involve multiple meetings.

Survivors of clergy abuse said if the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts, were to release the names of priests who have been accused of abusing children, it would help more people heal.

The diocese reported 173 people have made credible allegations against 54 clergy between 1950 and 2022. The report said the majority of the victims were abused as boys.

But unlike the vast majority of U.S. dioceses, Worcester doesn't name the clergy accused of abuse.

Skip Shea, a 62-year-old from Uxbridge, said three priests from the diocese abused him from age 11 until 16. He said not making the names of accused priests public doesn't help survivors.

"It just keeps everything still a secret, which is probably the most damaging thing you can do to any victim or survivor is to let them know that it's still a secret," Shea said.

Shea also wants the diocese to publish the names of the parishes where the abuse occurred. He said he was abused at St Mary's Parish in Uxbridge and at the House of Affirmation in Whitinsville, where he was hired to mow the lawn.

Shea said when a survivor sees the name of the priest that abused them, it validates their experience.

"There's nothing more important to to a victim or survivors than to have someone validate what happened to them," Shea said.

Worcester Bishop Robert McManus said in the report that he is "profoundly sorry for the abuse." But he defended the decision not to list the names of accused clergy.

"There is no other precedent for the publishing of lists of the accused in society — even of those accused in other positions of trust such as medicine, education or law enforcement," McManus said in the report.

According to the nonprofit bishop-accountability.org, 160 dioceses and archdioceses in the U.S. have published names of accused clergy, including Springfield, Boston, Fall River and Hartford. Fourteen dioceses have not, including the Diocese of Worcester.

Mike McDonnell, the communications manager of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, survived abuse by two priests in the Philadelphia area when he was a boy. SNAP is calling for the Worcester Diocese to name the accused.

"Knowing the names is crucial not only for the protection of society as a whole, but it also helps individuals who were abused to see and validate the name of their abuser," McDonnell said. "It also encourages those who have sat in silence to come forward for the very first time, regardless of whether the abuser is alive or dead."

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.