Add my own state of South Dakota to those in which local Catholic Church authorities have publicly released the names of alleged sex-abusing priests. In this new list, all but one are deceased.
On March 19, the Most Rev. Robert D. Gruss, bishop of Rapid City, the state’s second largest city, published a public statement of contrition and a list of 21 priests of the Diocese of Rapid City “credibly accused of sexual abuse while serving in schools, churches, hospitals and on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud [Indian] reservations from 1951 to 2018.”
“It is important to acknowledge the horrid truth of past abuse in the church so that we can repent of these actions and to recommit ourselves to ensuring that no one is hurt moving forward,” Bishop Gruss wrote in a March 15 letter posted on the diocese website, the Rapid City Journal reported.
Gruss said publishing the list of alleged offenders is “essential in restoring the trust that has been broken as the result of the misconduct of a few.” He explained in his letter that a reasonable cause of abuse was established for each priest on the list after “a process of consultation.” He acknowledged that because allegations were made years or decades after relevant incidents and some might be false, the determination of credibility is not the same as a conviction in court.
The bishop’s letter comes as the diocese awaits the April 4 sentencing of one of its priests, Fr. John Praveen, who plead guilty to sexually touching a young teen girl. Praveen was on loan to the diocese from India. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison and may be deported back to India.Regarding Praveen’s case, the diocese emailed a statement to the Rapid City Journal, stating in part:
“This kind of abuse by a member of the clergy or anyone is unconscionable and should never happen,” the Diocese of Rapid City said in an emailed statement. “We remain deeply saddened by these events. The diocese will continue to offer our assistance to the victim and the victim’s family. We are grateful that the legal process has led to this revelation of the truth.”
Gruss’ latest diocesan mea culpa about general accusations of priestly abuse comes as an increasing number of American dioceses are issuing their own institutional apologies and releasing names of priests accused of sexual mistreatment of parishioners, most often children. Even Pope Francis I and global cardinals and bishops are wrestling with how to resolve what has become a catastrophic problem worldwide for the church and its moral credibility.
In the last year, dioceses have released lists of hundreds of accused accused priests ministering in various cities, including Texas, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and California.
Bishop Gruss urged anyone who believes they have been sexually abused by a priest or diocesan employee to contact the diocese’s victim assistance coordinator at (605) 209-3418.