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Virginia dioceses name 50 priests 'credibly accused' of sexual abuse of minors

Posted on Feb 15,2019
Filed Under News , Community,

By Jordan Fischer

WASHINGTON — The bishops of the Catholic dioceses overseeing the state of Virginia released the names of dozens of priests Wednesday who they say were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

The lists include the names of 50 priests who served in either the Richmond or Arlington dioceses going back to at least 1974 and serving as recently as 2007. Eight of the priests are named in both dioceses’ lists.

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge, who previously served as bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh before being moved to the Arlington diocese by Pope Francis in 2016, said in a letter released Wednesday that the names were being published “after a full review of all clergy filed by experienced and independent examiners (former FBI personnel).” The bishop said the examiners were given full access to “all information and files” from the history of the Diocese of Arlington since its founding in 1974.

Burbidge’s letter names 16 priests from the Arlington diocese accused of sexually abusing minors. The most recent was Christopher M. Buckner, who served in the diocese from 1980 through 2007, when he was removed from public ministry after being accused of the sexual abuse of a minor. According to the diocese, Buckner retired in 2018 “without faculties to exercise priestly ministry.”

Of the 16 Arlington priests accused, none are active in public ministry. Three are deceased and two others have been dismissed from being priests. One, Tran Dinh Nhi, remains removed from public ministry pending a final determination of his canonical status following allegations of sexual abuse in 2006.

“The publishing of this list will bring a range of emotions for all of us. Embarrassment, frustration, anger and hurt are all natural emotions to experience in a time such as this,” Burbidge wrote in his letter. “I share those emotions.”

“I am deeply sorry for what has happened to you,” Burbidge continued. “You can be assured and confident of my ongoing pastoral care.”

Bishop Barry C. Knestout, who was appointed to head the Diocese of Richmond in December 2017, wrote in his own letter that he hoped publication of the list of priests would “help bring about healing” to those who have experienced abuse in the church.

“This crisis calls us to be immersed in three aspects of reconciliation,” Knestout wrote. “We need to bring to light the damage that has been done by child sexual abuse in the Church in order for healing to take place. We must express our sorrow and contrition publicly and clearly to acknowledge what we have done and what we have failed to do. We must continue to demonstrate our commitment to never let this happen again. In doing so, we make known — and support with actions — our commitment to repair the damage that has been done.”

The Archdiocese of Richmond named 42 priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors either in the diocese or while working for the diocese. Of those named, 22 are reported to be deceased. Six were convicted of unspecified charges. None are believed to currently be serving in public ministry.

The dioceses’ letters also note that an additional priest, Father Terry Specht, was accused of sexual abuse of a minor in 2011. The letter says the Arlington Diocesan Review Board was not able to come to a decision “as to the credibility of the accusations against Father Specht.” Specht was granted a medical retirement shortly after being placed on leave.

The Virginia dioceses are the latest to release lists of former priests accused of sexually assaulting minors. In October, the Archdiocese of Washington released its own list of 31 priests going back to 1948.

Source Wusa9

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