Earlier this year the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte announced it would release a list of clergy members credibly accused of sexual assault.
They didn’t release the list Monday, but did share more about the list. The list will run approximately 20 names long and include ordered and parish priests. The list will include credibly accused clergy whether they are alive or have passed away.
WFAE’s Sarah Delia spoke with Father Patrick Winslow, the vicar general and chancellor of the Diocese of Charlotte. You’ll hear in his voice that Father Winslow is recovering from laryngitis. Delia started off by asking Winslow what standards an allegation must meet to be found credible.
Winslow: When an allegation comes to our attention, we do two things. First, we notify civil authorities. Second, we engage an internal process which features a review board. The review board comes together from different disciplines that would be expert in investigating these matters and looks into the question of credibility and it comes to a conclusion as to whether or not this allegation has the semblance of truth. Meantime, the moment the allegation comes forward any clergy is set on administrative leave pending the outcome of the review board reports investigation into the matter and finding of credibility. The moment an allegation is found credible it's reported to the bishop and he acts on their recommendations.
Delia: When we talk about the internal review board I understand - it's said over and over again that it's an independent board. But when the public hears that the bishop is the one that is picking and appointing these people to the board can you see how there could be a little, well, that sounds a little funny?
Winslow: The review board is designed to provide counsel to the bishop and in the life of the church you have to have somebody in the church make the appointments. In practice what happens is that the review board members through their chairman will nominate names either to succeed them if they're stepping down and served their term or if they feel that there's a new competency that ought to be added that could bring value and they present those names to the bishop and to my knowledge every single name that's ever been presented as has been has been accepted.
Delia: It was explained earlier that just because an accusation is found to be credible that's not necessarily an admission of guilt. So I wonder if on the flip side of that just because an accusation is found to be not credible, I mean, doesn't that mean that something could have still possibly happened.
Winslow: We try very hard to serve everyone involved but most especially victims. And the people on the review board take very seriously every claim that a victim presents and it's their determination regarding credibility that becomes very important. I would say that there is great sensitivity to this issue. The question of what we do afterward is based upon that finding.
Delia: What do you think the Charlotte diocese has gotten wrong with its communication to the public regarding lists or abuse?
Winslow: I think I think as priests we are capable and quite adept at talking to our people and the people in our congregations and we've been talking about these issues from the pulpit and in our meetings with the faithful. We're not as priests the most equipped to present ourselves in public media venues but that doesn't mean it's not important. It's very incredibly important and since assuming this role in April although I'm not as skilled as a public speaker I do nonetheless think it's incredibly important to speak to the larger community on this issue.
Delia: And we so appreciate you taking so much time that you did today to do that. Why do you think Bishop Jugas hasn't come out and answered some of these questions himself? I mean, he's been here a lot longer than you have, he's seen a lot of changes and has inherited some of these problems especially when it comes to transparency and communication. I mean, why isn't he answering these questions?
Winslow: I think that the the bishop has over the course of his past 15 years has spoken and has used the vehicles that he has available to him, mainly our diocesan newspaper, social media sites and other venues. And so, he has addressed and spoken very eloquently and very passionately on these issues. I think that this new approach comes with, you know, my coming into office and saying, you know look, I think that this conversation with the larger community is important to have and he agrees.
Delia: Are you confident that the list is going to be released by the end of the year?
Winslow: I feel very confident. It's an enormous task to go through so many files that are in the archives. But to the people that have been entrusted with the responsibility are professional, they're qualified, they're making amazing progress. We're gonna do everything that we can to make sure that all those files can be updated with current information because these things go back so many decades. People may be deceased, people may have taken action in the past and it's important to make sure that they're updated. And so, it's not just the finding of the files that have an allegation but also making sure that the proper research is done to bring it up to date.