Richmond lists 42 priests accused of sexually abusing minors  2/13/2019 8:42:53 PM  2

RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia's Catholic Diocese of Richmond on Wednesday published a list of 42 priests with a "credible and substantiated" allegation of sexual abuse against a child.

The disclosure comes five months after Bishop Barry Knestout pledged to conduct an independent investigation to review church personnel files.

"To those who experienced abuse from clergy, I am truly, deeply sorry," Knestout wrote in a letter published with the list on the diocese's website. "I regret that you have to bear the burden of the damage you suffered at the hands of those you trusted. I am also sorry that you must carry the memory of that experience with you."

Knestout said publishing the list "can help bring about healing" and "heighten the awareness of this tragic situation."

The move comes as dioceses in more than two dozen states around the country have taken similar action since a grand jury report released in August alleged that more than 300 priests abused at least 1,000 children over seven decades in Pennsylvania.

On Wednesday, New Jersey's five Roman Catholic dioceses listed more than 180 priests who have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors over a span of several decades.

Thirteen of the 42 priests on the Richmond list are now deceased, and the rest have been removed from ministry. Six have been criminally convicted.

The list covers allegations dating from the 1950s to the most recent substantiated allegation in 1993, said Deborah Cox, a spokeswoman for the Diocese. The list doesn't include details about the allegations or what parishes the priests were serving in at the time.

Cox said Knestout does not know of any priests or deacons currently serving in ministry or in any other capacity with a credible and substantiated allegation of sexual abuse against them. Cox said that if victims come forward with allegations against any clergy in active ministry, Knestout "will respond in accordance with our commitment to addressing allegations of sexual abuse."

One of the priests listed is the Rev. John P. Blankenship, who pleaded guilty in 2002 to sexually abusing a 14-year-old boy in 1982 while the boy and his mother went to the Church of the Sacred Heart in Prince George County to do housekeeping chores. Blankenship was given supervised probation and avoided a prison sentence. He was removed from ministry in 2002 and dismissed from the priesthood in 2007.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said in October that his office and state police were investigating possible clergy sexual abuse of children and whether any church officials may have covered up or "abetted any such crimes."

Herring set up a hotline and an online reporting form for any victims to report abuse.

A spokesman for Herring did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

After the clergy sex abuse crisis exploded in Boston in 2002, U.S. bishops adopted a series of reforms, including stricter requirements for reporting allegations to law enforcement. Since then, abuse allegations have been reported in dioceses around the country.

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