Critics Urge Diocese of Rockville Centre To Release Names of Accused Clergy

Victims advocates held a news conference June 3, 2019. Long Island Press photo

Victims advocates are urging The Diocese of Rockville Centre to release the names of clergy members that allegedly committed sexual abuse against children.

The Manhattan-based law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates compiled the names of 65 publicly accused perpetrators, their histories, and photographs, but implored the diocese to release the other data they have on priests accused of sexual abuse.

“I’ll say it right now,” Anderson told reporters Monday during a news conference. “This is a dirty diocese.”

The call comes after church officials nationwide have released similar data following a bombshell Pennsylvania grand jury report last year detailed sexual abuse allegations against more than 300 priests. The Diocese of Rockville Centre, which has more than 1 million baptized Catholics on Long Island, is the only diocese in New York State to not release such a list.

The law firm’s list was partly compiled from a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury investigative report into the Diocese of Rockville Centre that concluded that the priests within the diocese were engaging in criminal sex acts and that the diocese was “incapable of properly handling issues relating to sexual abuse of children.”

Attorney Stacey Benson said that of the 65 perpetrators, the firm cannot locate 30.

“We do not know if they’re in the communities next to you, in your schools, in your churches or in some youth serving organization,” said Benson. “Not knowing where these predators are, to us that is a public safety imperative and the diocese needs to provide that information.”

The diocese issued a statement indicating that it is “premature” to release the names “while the investigations into allegations are ongoing” as a part of the diocese’s Independent Compensation Review Program in which victims are offered settlements.

Steve Werner, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse who attended the news conference, alleged that he was abused by Rev. Peter Charland, who was last known to be in St. James before he died in 2004. Charland was accused of sexually abusing at least eight children in the early 1970s and later became a private practice therapist focusing on children with learning disabilities.

“I am here in a continuing effort to expose the truth, at least in regards to me,” Werner said. “I hope my presence today will allow [others to find the] strength to come forward and expose what occurred during their childhood years.”

The ICRP had made an offer to Werner to compensate for his abuse, but he did not accept it.

“Transparency is more important to me than a quick monetary offer,” he said.

Another survivor, Bridie Farrell, the founder of NY Loves Kids, an organization dedicated to speaking out against child sexual abuse, was also supportive of the efforts to release the names. Farrell was abused in 1997, and her abuser was named in 1990.

“We up here are not anti-Catholic,” said Farrell, “we are anti-crime.”