OKLAHOMA CITY – A long-awaited report regarding allegations of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church in Oklahoma City has now been released to the public.
In August of 2018, the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City received a letter from a former resident of Oklahoma, who reported being abused by a priest in the 1980s. After receiving the letter, the archdiocese ordered a full review of the priest’s history.
Days later, Archbishop Paul Coakley announced the Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City was planning to review and report all past allegations of child sexual abuse by priests.
“This is a very dark moment in the history of our beautiful, but wounded, Catholic Church. We are called to prayer and penance for the purification of the Church and our bishops and priests must set the example. It calls for a renewed commitment to vigilance, transparency and accountability from our shepherds and indeed for the whole Church,” the Most Rev. Paul S. Coakley, Archbishop of Oklahoma City, said in 2018. “An internal and independent review of previous allegations is a good place to start. No matter how painful this process may become, I am committed to reviewing and sharing the specifics of these cases.”
Officials announced that they would review all instances where credible allegations of child sexual abuse were reported, substantiated, prosecuted, or admitted to among priests serving in Oklahoma City.
Initially, the archdiocese said the report would likely be released to the public in 10 to 12 weeks.
However, officials later said that there wasn't a timetable because the church "miscalculated on how long it would take" to review the files of past and current priests.
On Thursday, the law firm of McAfee & Taft released a report regarding its independent investigation into how the archdiocese handled and responded to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests.
The 77-page report identifies 11 priests who the firm says faced substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors between 1960 and 2018.
“The Archdiocese wanted a thorough, independent investigation; McAfee & Taft provided precisely that,” said Ronald T. Shinn Jr., the attorney who led the investigation. “It should be noted the Archdiocese was under no obligation to initiate this outside investigation, and that by doing so, it subjected itself to independent review and criticism of its past actions. While this investigation and our Report address difficult and painful issues, we hope the public will commend the Archdiocese’s transparency and accountability.”
Officials say the archdiocese "conducted inconsistent and inadequate" investigations into the allegations, along with failing "to follow its own policies and procedures." They said it also "had inadequate recordkeeping policies and systems."
The report also included the following recommendations:
- Engaging a qualified independent investigator to review allegations of sexual abuse of minors and report to the Archdiocesan Review Board
- Taking steps to improve recordkeeping regarding allegations of abuse
- Implementing a written record retention policy and acquiring a more robust recordkeeping system
- Publicly reporting the findings and actions of the Archdiocese when it makes decisions relating to allegations of sexual abuse of minors
- Clarifying that all Archdiocesan personnel should immediately report any concerns about the sexual abuse of minors.
Officials say they are still reviewing documents that were recently given to the archdiocese by its former outside general counsel. If warranted, the firm will issue another report based on the new information.
Archbishop Paul Coakley sent News 4 the following letter:
"My heart breaks to have to write this letter. Events of this past year, beginning with revelations of the scandal surrounding then-Cardinal McCarrick followed by the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, have sent shock waves throughout the Catholic Church in America. We are challenged to face again the crisis of sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults at the hands of clergy, and examine how we have dealt or failed to deal with this societal scourge within our Church.
The long and the short of it is you trusted us, and we failed. Though we have made significant progress on many fronts since the 2002 publication of the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” we must do better.
I want to begin by expressing my profound sorrow and most sincere apologies to each person who has ever been a victim of sexual abuse by anyone representing the Church. I also am sorry for the complicity and negligence of those who failed to respond adequately to reports of abuse, for whatever reason, whether they are bishops, priests, deacons, religious or lay persons representing the Church.
The effects of such abuse have had devastating consequences far beyond individual victims and survivors. Marriages, families and parishes have been adversely impacted. I have had the painful and humbling experience over the past few months of meeting and speaking with clergy sexual abuse survivors as well as their parents and spouses to hear firsthand how devastating this sin – this crime – has been. In each of those meetings or conversations, my purpose has been to listen, to express sorrow and to offer support to those who have been traumatized by this evil.
As a bishop, I also have been grieved for the countless faithful, dedicated and generous priests who have faced ridicule and suspicion because of the terrible crimes of their brothers. This too is a bitter fruit of this injustice.
I recognize the damage that has been done to the faithful whose trust and faith have been shaken by the sins of their leaders.
In response to the deterioration of trust that clergy sexual abuse represents, a new level of transparency and accountability is required to demonstrate the seriousness of our commitment to creating and maintaining safe environments and addressing the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy.
As a next step in restoring trust through greater transparency, I ordered a review of our priest personnel files by an independent law firm. Accompanying my letter, you will find a report detailing the cases of substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests in the
Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. You also will find information providing the answers to many questions that might arise.
As part of its investigation, the law firm has reviewed hundreds of files of priests who have ministered in the archdiocese since 1960. The archdiocese also provided full access to all records, including electronic files. In addition, we already have begun the process of reviewing files of priests who ministered in the archdiocese prior to 1960.
As the graphics demonstrate, we have made progress in that the number of substantiated instances of abuse has dropped dramatically since 2002 for which I am grateful. But, we must do more and remain vigilant in our fight to do all we can to protect our most vulnerable.
Please continue to pray for the healing and purification of the Catholic Church and especially for all who have ever been victims of abuse by those who represented the Church. Please pray for your priests, deacons and seminarians. Please pray for me.
If you or anyone you know has been abused by a member of the clergy or anyone representing the Church, please call the Archdiocesan Pastoral Response Hotline – (405) 720-9878."