FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Dr. Robert Hoatson drove up to Massachusetts from New Jersey with one goal: demand the Diocese of Fall River release a list of clergy members who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors.
Hoatson is the president of Road to Recovery, a group for sexual abuse survivors. On Tuesday, he stood outside the Diocese’s Chancery Office and held a sign reading, “Bp. da Cunha release abusive clergy list.”
“We think it is outrageous that victims in Fall River are continuing to live with the fact that secrecy continues and cover-up continues,” he said. “The longer that Bishop da Cunha does not release the list of abusive clergy in this Diocese, the less safe children are and the more revictimized victims are.”
Hoatson is a former priest and has been running Road to Recovery since 2003. He said he served with Bishop Edgar da Cunha in the Archdiocese of Newark.
While the Diocese said this past weekend it was suspending two retired priests, each accused of sexual abuse in separate cases, church officials have not said how soon the list might be completed or released.
In response to Hoatson’s demonstration on Tuesday, the Diocese released this statement:
“Last year, Bishop da Cunha announced his intention to publish a list of clergy against whom a credible allegation of abuse of a minor has been made in the past, and this remains his commitment. As the Bishop previously announced, the Diocese engaged the services of an outside consultant to review personnel files of all priests, living or deceased. The Diocese’s preparation of the list of accused priests is ongoing. Bishop da Cunha appreciates the concerns of the individual who was present today and wishes to assure the community of faithful that the Diocese is taking the time and diligence necessary to compile a list that is accurate and thorough.”
Da Cunha said last January he’d hoped to see the review completed by later in spring 2019. But when Target 12’s Eli Sherman approached the Diocese about the delay this month, spokesman John Kearns said the Diocese is committed to producing the list and the external review of priest personnel files is still ongoing. “It takes time and diligence to compile a list that is accurate and thorough,” he said.
This weekend’s announcement of the suspensions of Father James F. Buckley and Father Edward J. Byington – both of whom deny the allegations of sexual abuse made against them – followed two other Fall River priests who were put on administrative leave in November due to accusations of misconduct. Both Father Richard Degagne and Father Daniel Lacroix denied those allegations as well.
Hotason said he wants to see the names compiled into a single list and not released piecemeal.
“Releasing the whole list will give us an idea not only of how many priests abused children in the Diocese of Fall River, but also people who are sitting at home watching, and they see the name of a priest and they finally say, ‘Oh my goodness, I wasn’t the only one,” he said. “Then they begin their healing process.”
Hoatson has driven to New England to demonstrate before, including outside of the Diocese of Providence. He usually protests alone.
The Diocese of Providence in July released its own list of 50 priests and other clergymen it deemed “credibly accused” of sexually abusing minors since 1950. Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin said the decision to release the list in Rhode Island was to show the Catholic hierarchy has nothing to hide.