The Las Vegas Catholic Diocese on Friday released the names of 32 clergy members and one volunteer it said were credibly accused of child sexual abuse and who had served in Nevada within the last several decades.
Bishop George Leo Thomas, who opened the broad investigation after becoming head of the diocese in 2018, said the “church has been in secrecy and denial for a very long time.”
The Las Vegas Diocese said of the 33 people listed, 21 are dead and the remainder had been removed from their positions, most before the investigation began.
A volunteer on the list was removed from his post just this year. The former priest had been accused multiple times of abuse in dioceses in other states, and the Diocese of Gary, Ind., showed he'd been removed from the clerical ranks in July 2006.
Thomas said all the information gathered on the accused had been turned over to law enforcement.
The Las Vegas release comes on the heels of another by the Catholic Diocese of Reno that listed 12 clergy members it said were credibly accused of sexually abusing children. The 12 named from Reno are also included in the Las Vegas list.
“It’s very important for me to be on record saying that I’m very deeply apologetic — truly aggrieved — for the people who have been abused, and deeply saddened, and I want to offer on behalf of this diocese a heartfelt apology,” Thomas said.
The Las Vegas Diocese does not know how many victims in total were abused by the clergy members, Thomas said, adding that would be the second part of the process.
He did say that since 1995, the diocese has paid out between $14 million and $15 million in settlement claims, counseling costs and attorney fees.
“The victim survivor will be believed and beloved,” Thomas said. “I will do everything in my power to assist them.”
Judy Larson, 72, with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said Thomas seemed to be sincere in his apology.
“That was refreshing,” she said. “It wasn’t just thoughts and prayers.”
Larson, who lives in Salt Lake City and works with victims throughout several Western states, said the naming of priests is crucial to give validation to the experiences of victims.
Larson said she was raped by a priest in Detroit as a 10-year-old. Her abuser was defrocked in the 1970s, she said, and was named by the Detroit Archdiocese as one who was credibly accused of abuse — but he was never criminally charged.
In Las Vegas, investigators for the diocese started work eight months ago and combed through records going back decades to look for and evaluate accusations.
The list showed some priests having served in as many as 13 parishes in their time in the diocese. Father William Duff, who died in 2005, moved around the most, serving all over the state, including in Reno, Elko and Las Vegas. Some of those listed, including the volunteer removed this year, were accused of sexually abusing minors in dioceses in other states but not in Nevada.
David Roger, a former Clark County prosecutor and district attorney who headed the investigation for the diocese, said the clergy on the list had been accused of a broad array of sexual misconduct against children.
Roger said the diocese used a standard of simply probable cause as being enough to level a credible accusation. “It is a very low standard,” said Roger, who led the Diocesan Clergy Oversight Review Board/Independent Review Board.
The release of the names is part of the Catholic Church’s continued struggle with abuse that went on for decades and remained largely unreported until it exploded with reports of abuse by clergy members in Boston under then-Bishop Cardinal Law.
Since the abuse was exposed in the Boston Globe, in events subsequently portrayed in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” the Catholic Church has seen diocese after diocese across the globe reveal the names of abusers.
Just last month, Catholic Church officials in Poland released information showing there were more than 380 clergy who had abused in excess of 600 victims dating back to 1990.
And in December, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles added 54 names to the list of more than 200 clergy members who had been accused of sexual misconduct with children going back decades.
The Las Vegas Diocese spans five counties and consists of 28 parishes with 87 priests. The Reno Diocese also has 28 parishes and has 70 priests covering northern Nevada. Before 1995, there was only one diocese covering the state.
In a letter released Friday by the Las Vegas Diocese, Thomas wrote that some of the people named on the list had been criminally convicted, but that others were being accused publicly for the first time.
Thomas came to Las Vegas after serving in dioceses in Seattle and Helena, Mont. The Helena diocese also released names of accused abusers when he served there, about four years ago.
“Often times, the pain and the grief and suffering that victim survivors feel is still in the present tense,” Thomas said.
“So it is very important for the church to listen very attentively to the hearts and minds of our survivors’ community and to make a very big step — and that is to live in transparency and truth.”