Best of 2019: Sex Abuse Accusations Impact Catholic Churches, Schools

The year 2019 had barely begun before the Catholic Diocese of Dallas was faced with addressing sexual abuse claims head-on. The continuing investigations by both the church and law enforcement made this one of our biggest stories of 2019.

By the end of January, the diocese had released the names of priests who had been credibly accused of sexually assaulting children as far back as 1950.

Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas addressed the list of accused priests that he said followed through on a “commitment made in October to provide…those priests who have been the subject of a credible allegation of sexual abuse of a minor” within the church dating back to 1950.

Just the month before,  officials from Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas released the names of priests involved in sexual assault at the campus dating back to 1966. Abuse at the Dallas campus occurred beginning then and lasted through at least 1994. The Jesuits’ Central and Southern Province alerted Michael A. Earsing, president of Jesuit College Preparatory School, to the list in December.

Priests who served at Christ the King Catholic Church, the SMU Catholic Community Center, and St. Rita Catholic Community were also named by the diocese.

In March, a former Dallas Jesuit student sued the school for $1 million after reporting that he was sexually abused by one of the school’s priests in the 1970s. The school released a statement saying the priest accused in the suit, Donald Dickerson, had already been named as being on a list of priests with credible sexual abuse allegations.

In May, Dallas police and the FBI executed several search warrants at the diocese as part of their ongoing investigation.

“As we look back at the Church’s history, our failure to protect our most vulnerable from abuse, and hold accountable those who preyed on them, fills me with both sorrow and shame,” Burns said in January. “But the painful, yet necessary process that begin in 2002 in this Diocese, has also led to much-needed reforms that we continue to rigorously implement today. Going forward, we must remain vigilant.”

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