The late Bishop John McGann and Msgr. Alan Placa was a prominent figure in the Long Island Catholic Church grappling with a still-unraveled sexual abuse scandal.
But neither is it on a list of 101 clergymen accused of sexual abuse of minors recently released by the diocese, although lawsuits for alleged abuse victims have reportedly filed lawsuits against both of them. The lawyers cited the omission of the two who held powerful posts in the Rockville Center diocese as an example of what they claim is a continued cover-up of wrongdoing in the Church.
“The Rockville Center Diocese should clearly have repeatedly accused Bishop McGann of sexual abuse if it really was about safety, accountability, healing and transparency,” said Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based attorney who has filed three civil complaints on behalf of alleged victims sexual abuse of McGann.
“Clergymen sexual abuse victims wonder what secret criteria the Rockville Center Diocese used as an excuse not to list priests like Bishop McGann,” Garabedian said.
Sean Dolan, a diocese spokesman, denied Garabedian’s testimony on Sunday.
“The suggestion that the diocese has a ‘secret criterion’ for which the name is on the clergy list is completely wrong,” said Dolan.
“The diocese has not determined which names are on the list,” he said. “Instead, as all attorneys involved know, the bankruptcy court decided which names to include. It is public knowledge that the court established the objective criteria for the list and the diocese simply followed the court order and the diocese will this collaboration continue as we seek some level of cure for abuse survivors and adhere to the highest standards of child protection. “
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Garabedian said the diocese “shouldn’t need a court order to practice morality” and urged the church to release all of its secret records on pedophile priests.
At least two lawsuits have been filed against Placa under the New York State Child Victims Act, which allows survivors to file civil suits regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred, said Jeff Anderson, a Minneapolis-based attorney.
The Church released the list on April 15 as part of the bankruptcy filings. It includes the names of the accused priests and deacons, the years and places they served, and the places where the alleged abuse took place.
These locations included motels, movie theaters, seminars, rectories, beach houses, cars, pools, boats, docks, shopping malls, public libraries, ski resorts, race tracks, racquetball clubs, an airplane, amusement parks, Long Island Rail Road cars, and the Nassau Colosseum and places as far away as Yellowstone National Park, the Bahamas, Rome, Italy, Zurich, Switzerland and Yugoslavia.
McGann and Placa appear on a separate list compiled by a committee of creditors consisting mainly of survivors and names 46 accused clergy who have been removed from the diocesan list. This includes clergy who were trained by the diocese or came from religious communities and worked on Long Island. The group said that while they “did not independently investigate” the allegations, sexual abuse lawsuits were filed against the men or a religious community and / or diocese outside the Rockville Center found the allegations credible.
A diocesan spokesman said the church is working to alert victims to an August 14 deadline for filing claims under the Child Victims Act. Pictured is the Roman Catholic St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Center, the seat of the diocese. Photo credit: Newsday / Steve Pfost
Anderson, who has filed dozens of sexual abuse lawsuits against the diocese, said the failure of both men was worrying.
“What we have is a pattern of serious obfuscation,” he said.
McGann presided over the diocese from 1976 to 2000 and died in 2002 at the age of 77. At the time of the alleged abuse in the 1960s and 1970s, he was monsignor of the parish of St. Agnes, the seat of the Diocese of Garabedian.
The diocese announced in 2019 that it had been made aware of the allegations and passed them on to the Nassau District Attorney.
Placa has served in posts including Vice Chancellor in the diocese responsible for investigating complaints of sexual abuse by priests. He was identified by Newsday and the victims as “Priest F” in a 2003 Suffolk County Grand Jury report of minors’ sexual abuse by clergy in the diocese.
He was also found not guilty of charges in a canonical trial filed in June 2002. He was suspended from priesthood for seven years during the trial and repeatedly denied the allegations.
Placa could not be reached for comment.
Anderson said 34 of the names issued by the diocese – or about a third of the list – were first published as suspected perpetrators. Anderson’s law firm has compiled its own list of 144 clergymen in the diocese who have been sued under the Child Victims Act.
Until that month, the Rockville Center was the only diocese in the state that had refused to publish such a list.
Dolan said the church is working to alert victims to an August 14 deadline for filing claims under the Child Victims Act.
He said the diocese had not published a list of credibly accused clergy “because of ongoing investigations, data protection issues and possible legal considerations.”
He added that “the inclusion of a name does not constitute an admission of guilt by the defendant”.
The listed individuals have either been convicted of credible allegations by a diocesan review committee or have received compensation from the diocese to a survivor under an independent program of reconciliation and compensation for the debtor, Dolan said.
Bart Jones has been reporting on religion, immigration and important breaking news on Newsday since 2000. As a former foreign correspondent for The Associated Press in Venezuela, he is the author of “HUGO! The Hugo Chavez story from the mud hut to the eternal revolution. “