In front of the St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre, Janet Klinger of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) called on the Rockville Centre Diocese to release a list of sexual abuse accused clergy.
The Rockville Centre Diocese is the largest diocese in the nation that has not come out with a list of names of clergy accused of sexual abuse.
“Every day that a predator’s name is hidden, kids are at risk of horrific abuse,” said Klinger standing alongside members of SNAP and sexual abuse survivors. “[Bishop John O.] Barres must post credibly accused clerics’ names immediately. It’s never premature to warn the public about potentially dangerous men.”
In January, the USA Northeast Province Jesuits released a list of accused Jesuits—four of whom were in Manhasset during their time as part of the clergy. SNAP brought attention to these priests as evidence that there has been maligned behavior in the diocese. According to the report from the Jesuits:
Father Joseph Towle was accused of sexual abuse in 1971 and was based at Inisfada, a Jesuit retreat house in Manhasset that was sold to developers in 2013, from 1968 to 1971. Father Edward D. Horgan was accused of sexual abuse in 1966 while he was at Regis High School and also stayed at Inisfada from 1983 to 1994. Father John Garvey was accused of abuse in 1978-79 and was based at Inisfada from 1978 to 1987. Father Joseph Fitzpatrick was accused of abuse in the 1980s and from 1971 to 1983 he was at St. Mary’s parish in Manhasset. His whereabouts from 1984 to 1986 are unknown, but he started to work again in 1987 at St. Mary Church in Marlboro, New York.
“At the very least, Barres should tell us those alleged predators who are alive and may pose threats to children right now,” said Klinger.
However, Bishop Barres has been involved in covering up sexual abuse cases going back to his time as Bishop of Allentown from 2009 to 2016.
A grand jury report by the Pennsylvania Attorney General published in 2018 revealed that Bishop Barres failed to remove Father Michael S. Lawrence after he abused two minors, ages 12 and 13. In 2014, Bishop Barres wrote a letter to the Vatican stating that Lawrence would “remain under this supervised way of life,” and not be removed from the church.
The grand jury report also reveals the failure to remove Monsignor Thomas J. Benestad from the clergy by Bishop Barres. In regards to Monsignor Benestad’s abuses the grand jury report states, “Benestad unzipped his pants and told the victim to perform oral sex on him. The victim did as he was told. Benestad also performed oral sex on the victim. The victim recalls that, after the abuse, Benestad would produce a clear bottle of holy water and squirt it into the victim’s mouth to purify him.”
No attempt was made to remove Benestad from the clergy according to the report.
In 2017, Bishop Barres was promoted to the Rockville Centre Diocese – the eighth largest diocese in the country. SNAP continues to push Barres to release the names of accused clergy, but have heard little to no response.
One member of SNAP on hand to call on Bishop Barres to release the names was sexual abuse survivor Brian R. Toale. “Central to their strategy is keeping secrets. It’s one of the reasons why the bishops resisted and acted against the child victims act and now that the child’s victims act is passed and the window will be open starting in August there will be an opportunity for civil suits to be brought,” said Toale, who was abused at Chaminade when he was 16. “If names are listed and survivors come forward and suits are engaged in, then there is the process of discovery, which means they have to show what they knew and when they knew it and that is what they are afraid of.”
“I went to Catholic grammar school, high school, college and graduate school. I still believe in God, but I’m angry with the way the church has responded or not responded,” said Mary McKenna, a Bellmore resident and a member of SNAP.
“I’m incredulous. It’s not rocket science, protect your children. If it was not a priest, if it was a regular civilian, they would be in jail,” said McKenna.