CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Catholic Diocese of Cleveland on Friday released a list of 22 previously unnamed clerics who have been accused of sexually abusing children while wearing the cloth.
The list of 21 priests and one permanent deacon includes the Rev. Anthony Schuerger, the longtime pastor of Cleveland’s St. Malachi Parish who was placed on administrative leave on Friday.
(See the list in the document viewer below. Mobile uses, click here to view the list)
Bishop Nelson Perez announced the release in a letter in which he said a committee assembled by the diocese had determined that the accusations against each cleric on the list were “more likely than not to be true.”
“While the addition of new names to this list is certainly an occasion of profound sadness, inasmuch as it reminds us of the great harm experienced as a result of sexual abuse, I pray that it also may be an occasion for healing and a step toward restoring trust in the Church,” Perez wrote in the letter.
The release comes after Perez pledged in October to follow the lead of dioceses around the country and release the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse, past and present. The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s August release of a sweeping grand jury report that identified 300 priests who victimized more than 1,000 children dating back decades helped fuel public pressure on those dioceses to disclose the names of abusive priests and clerics.
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.”
Schuerger was placed on administrative leave Friday while a diocesan committee reviews allegations that he sexually abused a child decades ago, the church said. He has been pastor at St. Malachi since 1994, and was still listed as pastor on the parish’s website as of Friday afternoon.
The diocese in 2002 began publishing names of priests who were accused from that year forward. The move came following a grand jury inquiry led by then-Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason that identified 1,000 potential victims of sexual abuse at the hands of 496 possible sexual offenders, of whom 145 were priests.
Many of the cases were past the statute of limitations, and grand jurors eventually levied criminal charges against 11 people, five of whom were members of the clergy.
Common pleas Court Judge Brian J. Corrigan, a product of Catholic-affiliated schools including St. Ignatius High School and University of Dayton, subsequently ruled that the public’s interest in learning the names of those potential predators identified in the report did not outweigh Ohio’s grand jury secrecy laws and ruled the report ought to remain secret. The names in the report had never been released.
The list the Diocese released Friday includes 29 priests whom the diocese has previously named publicly.