The Catholic Diocese of Dallas will release the names of all priests "credibly accused" of sexual assaulting minors from 1950 until the current day in January as part of a joint effort of each of Texas' 15 dioceses, Dallas Bishop Edward Burns said Wednesday.
Investigators have been looking through the Dallas church's files since early this year, Burns said at a press conference.
"Opening our files to outside investigators and releasing the names is something I have been considering for some time," the bishop said. "Since I believe it is the right thing to do, the Diocese of Dallas has had outside investigators, a team made up of former FBI, state troopers and other experts in law enforcement, examining our files since February, and they still have work to do."
While he didn't provide a formal set of criteria as to what would qualify an accusation as credible, Burns said the investigation would attempt to find the truth behind any accusation.
"If there were a conviction, of course that's credibly accused," Burns said. "When there's not a conviction, [a credible accusation occurs if] through the investigation, you get a sense and truly believe the victim that has stepped forward that what they are saying is true."
When the Texas dioceses release their lists early next year, they will also release the final criteria used to decide which priests ended up being placed on the list, Burns said.
Burns' announcement comes about two months after allegations against a former priest at St. Cecilia in Oak Cliff were made public in August. Diocese officials removed Edmundo Paredes, a pastor at the church for nearly two decades, after he admitted stealing church funds in June 2017. After being removed from his post but before the sexual abuse allegations surfaced, Paredes disappeared, possibly returning to his birthplace in the Philippines, according to church officials.
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The bishop also cited the recent removal of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick by Pope Francis for allegedly fondling an altar boy in the '70s as well as this summer's grand jury report in Pennsylvania on abuses in the church as reasons the investigation and release of names were happening now.
"There is for me a clear sense that there is an urgency, that we have to take some significant steps. I believe that's exactly what we're doing here in the state of Texas," Burns said.
Burns praised church officials around the state for taking what he said was a unique step to address past abuses by priests.
"I truly believe that this is the first time that an entire state has bound together to release names," Burns said. "I'm very pleased with my brother bishops in the state of Texas that we're able to exercise and demonstrate a collegiality in bringing the names of the accused forward."