The Archbishop of San Antonio announced it is forming an independent commission to review efforts to address clergy sexual abuse of minors.
Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller said in a statement Wednesday that Catherine Stone, retired Chief Justice of the Texas Fourth District Court of Appeals, has agreed to assemble and lead the commission. The commission will be made up of lay people.
“The archbishop will not be involved with the work of this committee, nor any of the clergy,” archdiocese spokesman Jordan McMorrough said. “This will be a lay-led initiative.”
The commission will review San Antonio archdiocese documents dating back to 1940. A list of clergy “credibly accused” of sexual abuse will be released by Jan. 31.
While McMorrough said he did not know how other dioceses in Texas plan to address claims of sexual abuse by their clergy, other bishops nationwide have announced independent boards to review sexual abuse claims.
“At the time we were announcing our commission yesterday, the diocese of Burlington, Vermont announced a similar thing,” he said. “We know that nationally, independent lay boards are being established.”
The Archdiocese of San Antonio’s actions will be discussed at November’s gathering of U.S. bishops, and at the Vatican in February when bishops worldwide plan to meet with Pope Francis to talk about sexual abuse of minors.
García-Siller was visibly emotional while reading his statement at a Wednesday press conference, according to media reports. He said the church must address the “horrible sin” of sexual abuse and allow victims to ask for help.
“I cannot adequately express my sorrow to these survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” he said. “There are no words that can undo the wrong that was perpetrated upon them. But I believe that by releasing these names that it will contribute to healing. If these actions prevent even a single occurrence of sexual abuse, it is all worth it.”
The formation of the Archdiocese of San Antonio’s commission comes after the August release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report, which discovered that more than 1,000 children were abused by hundreds of Pennsylvania priests. The report included the name of one priest who served in San Antonio from 1976 until his death in 1995.
The other 14 dioceses of Texas also will review their records going back to 1950, pledging to release a list of accused clergy by Jan. 31, according to a Wednesday news release from the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. There are an estimated 8.5 million Catholics and 1,320 parishes in Texas.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, said this came as a response to people urging greater accountability and transparency.
“Every bishop in our state has made a statement expressing his concern for all who have been hurt and I want to express my personal sorrow at such fundamental violations of trust that have happened,” DiNardo said in a statement Wednesday. “We are completely committed to eradicating the evil of sexual abuse in the church and promoting healing among the faithful and those injured by this crime.”