By Keith Coffman
DENVER (Reuters) - Two U.S. chapters of the Roman Catholic Church’s Jesuit order of clergyman on Friday released a list of 153 names of its clerics who have faced credible accusations of sexual misconduct spanning almost half the country.
The disclosures come from Jesuits on the West Coast and in the central United States and identify offenders dating back to the 1950s.
The Rev. Scott Santarosa, the head of the western Jesuit province apologised to the victims in a written statement accompanying the release.
“It is inconceivable that someone entrusted with the pastoral care of a child could be capable of something so harmful. Yet, tragically, this is a part of our Jesuit history, a legacy we cannot ignore,” Santarosa said.
While some of the Jesuit offenders were already known, the disclosure is the latest revelation of clergy sex abuse that has roiled the Catholic Church since 2002, when the Boston Globe newspaper uncovered a decades-long cover-up by the Church hierarchy of sexual misconduct.
Since then, similar reports have emerged in Europe, Australia and Chile, prompting lawsuits, sending dioceses into bankruptcy and undercutting the moral authority of the leadership of the Church, which has some 1.2 billion members around the world.
The Jesuits, formally known as the Society of Jesus, is the largest order of male clergy in the Catholic Church, consisting of some 16,000 priests, brothers and scholastics, or priests in training. There are 2,150 Jesuits in the United States.
Terence McKiernan, president of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks Catholic clergy abuse, said in a statement that the disclosures marked a “significant development,” but still falls short of full accountability.
“Detailed descriptions of the allegations should have been provided, especially for priests and brothers whose names are being made public for the first time,” he said. “It is crucial to know how long an accused priest worked in a school or parish, and in what years."
The central U.S. province said it retained a consulting firm comprised of former FBI agents, and a “comprehensive” audit of its offenders will be released next year.
The U.S. Catholic Church has paid out more than $3 billion to settle clergy abuse cases, McKiernan said.
One of the largest payouts by any Catholic order was the Jesuits, who paid out $166 million to victims, most of them Native Americans from remote Alaska Native villages or Indian reservations in the Pacific Northwest.
(The story corrects headline to upper case Jesuits)
(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb & Simon Cameron-Moore)