“Failure to Protect Our Most Vulnerable”

Several priests named in a Catholic Diocese of Dallas list of those credibly accused of sexually assaulting children – some as far back as 1950 – served at locations in the People Newspapers coverage area.

The diocese released the list on Jan. 31 with a detailed online posting and a press conference at the Diocese office.

(ABOVE: From Dallas Bishop Edward Burns: “As we look back at the Church’s history, our failure to protect our most vulnerable from abuse and hold accountable those who preyed on them, fills me with both sorrow and shame. But the painful, yet necessary [investigation] that begin in 2002 in this Diocese has also led to much-needed reforms that we continue to rigorously implement today. Goingforward, we must remain vigilant.” Photo: Tim Glaze)

By releasing the list, Dallas Bishop Edward Burns kept a “commitment made in October to provide…those priests who have been the subject of a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor” within the church., he said.

Twenty-four priests with direct ties to the Dallas Diocese are named, as well as another seven who were incardinated in a different diocese or religious order but served in Dallas. Of the 31 priests, 17 are dead, five have been suspended from practicing, and five are laicized.

Those who served in the area include Michael Flanagan, William Hoover, Henry McGill, and James Reilly at Christ the King Catholic Church; Michael Barone and Richard Johnson at the SMU Catholic Community Center; and Patrick Koch and Benjamin Smylie at St. Rita Catholic Community.

Koch and Smylie also served at Jesuit College Preparatory School, as did Vincent Malatesta, who was named on the diocese list as well as a list of accused Jesuits that was released in December.

The Rev. Arthur Unachukwu of the SMU Catholic Community Center released a statement following Burns’ address, noting that Johnson filled in for masses periodically in 1969 and that Barone spent only a few months at the center in 1995. The accusations against the two did not occur during their association with the ministry, Unachukwu said.

“It saddens me to see and hear these stories of sexual abuse of minors,” he said. “My heart and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones. But, we cannot simply be sad – that is not enough. We must resolve to defend the innocence of the young and to protect them against insidious priests.”

The Rev. Joshua Whitfield of St. Rita sent out a four-page letter to the members of the congregation following the release, imploring any victims who have not done so already to reach out to Dallas police.

The priests that served at St. Rita, Smylie and Koch, died in 2004 and 2006, respectively.

“Hopefully it is darkness giving way to light, and hurt giving way to healing,” Whitfield wrote. “This is bitter medicine. The list is painful to read, yet we know we should not pass on too quickly from the trauma of it all. We know, for the sake of justice and truth, that we must look at this list soberly – exposed and wounded though we are. Hopefully, [this] belongs to the cleaning and purification of the church.”

Officials with Christ the King said the church would not be releasing statements.

Burns said an outside group of former state and federal law enforcement officials reviewed the files of some 2,400 priests while identifying data that contained allegations. In Texas, approximately 8.5 million people are practicing Catholics. There are 1,320 parishes, and 4,000 members of the clergy.

“This list is not closed,” Burns said. “This list is not closed. We will adjust it to reflect the latest information. I implore any other victims to come forward.”

David Clark, the Dallas police detective assigned to investigate such cases, has said victims should call him at 214-671-4301.

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