FAQ on Arkansas Clergy Disclosure List

Updated July 6, 2022

The following answers frequently asked questions regarding the disclosure of names of clergy for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, substantiated or determined or considered to be credible in the Diocese of Little Rock. For more information, contact us.

1. What if I or someone I know has been sexually abused by a priest, deacon, or other personnel of the Church?

A. If you have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused by anyone, please first contact the civil authorities by calling the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline (800) 482-5964. If the abuser is a priest, deacon or member of Church personnel, then please call or email our diocesan contacts: Dc. Matthew Glover, chancellor for canonical affairs (501) 664-0340, ext. 361 or our victims assistance coordinator at (501) 664-0340, ext. 425.

2. Why was this disclosure made in 2018?

A. In August 2018, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania was released to the public, detailing allegations and instances of abuse in that state. In the wake of that report, people began to ask about the existence of such cases in Arkansas. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor believes people have the right to know, so he asked for a review of diocesan files of the priests who have served in Arkansas during the last 70 years. The release on Sept. 10, 2018, was the preliminary findings of that review.

3. Why was this disclosure not made earlier?

A. Actually, when he was bishop of Little Rock, now Archbishop J. Peter Sartain publicly disclosed similar numbers in 2004 following the 2002 clergy sex abuse crisis in Boston, but without releasing the names of known abusers over what was then the previous 50 years. (See “A Pastoral report to the people of the diocese,” Arkansas Catholic, Feb. 21, 2004.)

4. How did the bishops of the Diocese of Little Rock handle allegations received in the past?

A. Archbishop Sartain (2000-2006), Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert (administrator 2006-2008) and Bishop Taylor (2008 to present) acted decisively whenever allegations were received — and all verified cases of offenses committed since 2002 have involved misconduct with adults or imprudent acts that did not rise to the level of sexual abuse (i.e., not crimes against children). For statements regarding how previous allegations were handled, please see the exit letter from Kinsale Management Consulting, as well as a report by Bishop Taylor on how the Church handled such allegations prior to 2002.

5. Who made the decision to publish this list?

A. The decision was made by Bishop Taylor, after consultation with and recommendation by the Diocesan Review Board.

6. How was this list developed?

A. Bishop Taylor asked for an internal investigation and review of all personnel files of clergy whom we already knew or whom we suspected had been accused of child sexual abuse. That information was then shared with the Diocesan Review Board, which recommended its preliminary publication on Sept. 10, 2018. Subsequently, the diocese hired the firm of Kinsale Management Consulting to conduct an independent review of diocesan files. At the conclusion of that process, an update was issued by Bishop Taylor on Feb. 8, 2020. The diocese will continue to update the list as necessary, and it continues to update the category of “Priests Credibly Accused Outside Arkansas” when it receives such information from another diocese or religious order.

7. What was the general process for creating the list?

A. Bishop Taylor worked with diocesan personnel, diocesan attorneys, Kinsale Management Consulting, and the Diocesan Review Board. The review board made recommendations to Bishop Taylor regarding whether an allegation against a particular cleric could be considered credible, such that that cleric’s name should be included on the list.

8. What help does the Diocese of Little Rock provide to known victims?

A. The diocese covers the reasonable costs of counseling and psychological care sought by any victim, if it is desired. It also covers other expenses and needs on a case-by-case basis, including needs that are not necessarily directly related to the abuse the victim suffered. In addition, in every case, the diocese offers a pastoral meeting to apologize on behalf of the church and to assist in the healing process.

9. In addition to offering pastoral care and payment for counseling, what other steps does the diocese take when an allegation of abuse of a minor is received?

A. If there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused, law enforcement is notified first. The diocese cooperates fully with any law enforcement investigation. At the conclusion of any law enforcement investigation, or if no criminal investigation is possible, then the diocese conducts its own investigation, including the possible hiring of an independent investigator. The results of the investigation(s) are presented to the Diocesan Review Board for a recommendation on the credibility of the allegation. The bishop arrives at a decision based upon the investigation, the available evidence, and the board’s recommendation. If the allegation is determined to be credible, the accused is immediately removed from ministry. If the accused is a priest, the bishop then coordinates with the Vatican in conducting a full canonical trial — and if that trial substantiates the allegation, then he is placed on permanent prayer and penance or laicized in a process through the Vatican.

10. What does the term “determined to be credible” mean?

A. When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Church personnel is received, the first step is to determine whether the incident(s) could have taken place as described. For example, if an allegation is received that a particular priest abused a minor in a particular parish in a particular year — but that priest was not at that parish or was not in the country at that time or was not even ordained yet at that time — then this particular allegation could not be accurate. If, on the other hand, the incident(s) could have taken place as described, the diocese conducts an investigation as described above, and the review board (whose members act as independent advisors to the bishop) makes a recommendation as to whether the accusation is credible.

For purposes of this Clergy Disclosure List, an allegation is “credible” if sufficient evidence exists to establish reasonable grounds to believe that the alleged abuse occurred. This is not equivalent to a finding of guilt under civil law, criminal law, or the Church’s canon law. In arriving at a determination of credibility, the bishop and review board take into account a number of factors, including but not limited to: whether there are similar allegations with similar characteristics; whether the allegation is first-hand (as opposed to second- or third-hand); the credibility of the complainant; whether there is any corroborating or supporting evidence on file or other testimony; and whether the accused has admitted guilt.

11. What does the term “considered to be credible” mean?

A. There are some allegations on this list that did not come to the diocese’s attention until after the priest had already died, sometimes many years after that priest died, thus limiting the diocese’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation and to give the priest an opportunity to respond. In such situations, a “determination” of credibility may not be possible. Nevertheless, in some cases, based on a number of different factors (see #10, above), the diocese considers some such allegations to be credible, and has offered pastoral care and counseling to the victims.

12. What does “permanent prayer and penance” status mean?

A. A priest may be placed on permanent prayer and penance through a canonical process authorized by the Vatican. This status applies to a priest permanently removed from all public ministry while still remaining a priest. He is not permitted to administer sacraments, wear clerical attire, or present himself publicly as a priest. He is asked to pray for healing and to do penance on behalf of those who have been abused. A priest in this category is regularly visited by a compliance monitor with professional expertise in monitoring of this type.

13. What does “laicized” mean?

A. A “laicized” priest or deacon has been removed from the clerical state and returned to the status of a lay person. He is no longer considered or treated as a priest or deacon. “Laicization” is a canonical process through the Vatican.

14. What is the definition of a minor for purposes of this list?

A. Anyone under the age of 18 or who habitually had the imperfect use of reason at the time the abuse occurred.

15. Do clergy on this list receive financial support?

A. None of the clergy on this list receive any financial support from the diocese. However, even after a priest is laicized, depending on the circumstances the Vatican may require that the diocese help ensure that the priest’s basic necessities are provided for (e.g., health insurance or small retirement support).

16. How much has the diocese paid in settlements and victim support over the years, and where has that money come from?

A. During the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the diocese paid a total of $745,000 to settle claims associated with persons on this Clergy Disclosure List. Of that total amount, $590,000 was paid by the diocese’s respective insurance carrier(s), and $155,000 was paid directly from diocesan funds.

17. What steps has the diocese taken to prevent sexual abuse of minors by church personnel?

A. The Diocese of Little Rock has a Safe Environment Program with training, policies and procedures designed to prevent and recognize signs of sexual abuse of minors. The diocese conducts criminal background checks of clergy, religious, employees and volunteers who have routine contact with minors. And these individuals are also required to undergo training to recognize and respond to potential signs of sexual abuse of minors. Finally, in all of our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs, minors are given age-appropriate education so they can know how to help create safe environments for themselves, and what they can do when they feel that a certain environment is not safe.