AUSTIN (KXAN) — By Jan. 31, 2019, the Catholic Church will release names of clergy members in Texas who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing children.
“We realize how important it is that we do all we can to prevent future abuse,” said Emily Hurlimann, the Director of Ethics and Integrity in Ministry for the Austin Diocese.
The list will name clergy members dating back to 1950 and Bishop Joe Vásquez says that by releasing the list, people can move forward in healing and it will create more trust in the Church.
“The sexual abuse of minors is a terrible thing. It’s a sin, but it’s a crime as well,” Vásquez said.
Hurlimann says that the Ethics and Integrity in Ministry program was put in place in 2002 to protect and help victims who have been sexually abused.
“Our program is focused on two different aspects: protecting children, preventing abuse from happening in the future, and then also for those that have experienced abuse in the past,” she said. “We’re supporting them, helping them report their stories and providing support for them as needed.”
The Catholic Diocese of Austin says it will be looking to hire outside investigators to help with compiling the list of victims by the deadline. Vásquez says that by hiring outside investigators, independent of the church, it will not be able to keep cases under wraps.
“We need someone who’s independent that’s not part of the church, that’s looking at us from the outside, so we cannot be blamed, or be, as you said, part of this conspiracy or cover-up,” Vásquez said.
The Catholic Diocese of Dallas has already hired a team of retired FBI, State Troopers and other members of law enforcement to examine their clergy files.
“We are doing this as a part of our ongoing work to protect our children, create a safe environment, to promote healing for those who have been abused and to demonstrate that we are focused in facing this issue,” Bishop Edward Burns said.
“The rules and responsibilities of how to keep kids safe are really pretty standard across the board,” Hurlimann said. “If people have those down, regardless of where they go, they’re going to be better protectors of children.”