As pressure mounts on Catholic dioceses across the country to come clean about how they handled abusive priests, the 15 Catholic bishops in Texas announced Wednesday that they will soon publish the names of clergy who have been "credibly" accused of child sexual assault.
"My hope in releasing these names is to be transparent and begin to rebuild trust with the people I shepherd," Austin Bishop Joe Vasquez said in a statement. "This is only one action in response to this crisis in our church. As the Bishop of the Diocese of Austin, I am committed to protecting children from any abuse. Indeed, this is what Christ expects from me and all who serve His people.
"I am most concerned for the victims who suffered abuse at the hands of clergy, and I ask their forgiveness. I continue to pray for their healing and well-being," he said.
Through its Ethics and Integrity in Ministry program, the Diocese of Austin has followed the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People since its inception in 2002, according to the news release. The program requires all people in ministry, including clergy, to undergo training and a criminal background check every three years. The diocese has trained more than 79,400 people through the program.
The 15 Catholic dioceses in Texas decided in late September to release the names, according to a news release.
"This is an action in response to the faithful's call for greater accountability and transparency," Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said in a news release.
There are 8.5 million Catholics and 1,320 Catholic parishes in Texas.
"It will take some time for files to be reviewed, and there may be people who come forward with new information following this announcement," Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, archbishop of San Antonio, said in the release. "My brother bishops in Texas and I agree that transparency in this painful matter of sexual abuse can assist with healing for survivors and transformation for our Church."