After a press conference in which three survivors of alleged sexual abuse told their stories, the Diocese of Albany released a statement refuting comments made by attorney Jeff Anderson, and praised survivors for their ‘courage’ to come forward.

Mary DeTurris Poust, Director of Communications for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany,  stated, “Before we issue our statement below, we must first correct the record:

Mr. Anderson stated that Bishop Scharfenberger in November 2015 released our List of Clergy Offenders “under some pressure.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Bishop Scharfenberger was a staunch advocate of publishing names of credibly accused clergy – both living and deceased – ahead of almost all other dioceses and organizations in the country. You can read what Bishop Scharfenberger had to say on the release of names in his 2015 column on that subject: https://evangelist.org/Content/Bishop/Columns/Article/Toward-openness-and-healing/17/79/25427

“Mr. Anderson also said the Diocese is ‘still adhering to secrecy.’ Bishop Scharfenberger has been a national leader in bringing justice to survivors and has been on the cutting edge of efforts to engage directly with survivors to bring them not only justice but healing.

“Although we will not address every name on Mr. Anderson’s list, we can say that there are inaccuracies on the list, names on the list that have not been found credible, many religious order priests, over whom we do not have jurisdiction, and others who are not alleged to have abused in the Albany Diocese, including at least one who never served as a priest in the Albany Diocese.”

The press conference was called by Jeff Anderson & Associates, which released “The Anderson Report” on Tuesday detailing the alleged abuse by clergy. The Diocese of Albany has previously released a list of 47 names, but Anderson’s report contains 26 religious order priests who do not currently get listed on diocesan lists and others who were found not credible of abuse.

The Diocese of Albany also released a statement supporting the survivors.

“We want to say first and foremost to the survivors who spoke today that we are inspired by their courage in coming forward and grateful for their willingness to bring light to situations that may have been in darkness for too long. Any time we hear survivors recount the horrors of sexual abuse, our hearts ache for them and their families, for childhoods stolen and for futures torn apart.

“Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany are committed to justice for those who have been sexually abused by priests and others in whom they put their trust.

“From the Independent Mediation Assistance Program launched in 2004, to the pro-active release of a list of clergy offenders in November 2015, to the recent establishment of a task force whose job is to support survivors and seek restora¬≠tive justice on their behalf, the Bishop and the Diocese continue to strive to put survivors first and to emphasize transparency.

“Our first concern is for the survivors, and we stand ready to accompany them, support them, and assist them. “Any claim received by the Diocese of Albany is immediately forwarded to the appropriate District Attorney and subsequently sent to the Diocesan Review Board for independent investigation. The Diocese of Albany urges all victims to report any instance of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy, its employees, or volunteers, to civil authorities and to contact the diocesan Assistance Coordinator at (518) 453-6646 or assistance.coordinator@rcda.org.”

Bridie Farrell, formerly a nationally ranked speed skater who was abused by a coach, said at the press conference “the point of coming forward is to change the culture.”

“This is not anti-Catholic,” added Farrell, who founded NY Loves Kids, “This is anti-crime.”

A more detailed look at Bishop Scharfenberger’s five years in the Capital Region shows his commitment in battling the crime of sexual abuse.

•  On Nov. 19, 2015, the bishop — who served nearly a decade on the Diocese of Brooklyn’s review board for sexual abuse of minors — proactively published a list of 44 living and deceased priests, who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse on the diocesan website and announced it in The Evangelist. The Bishop said at the time, “In light of their continued pain and need for healing and in the interest of transparency and openness, I have reviewed the criteria we use for releasing names to the public and have decided to make available on our diocesan website the most up-to-date information possible.” The names of the accused priests can be found at www.rcda.org/offenders.

•  On Aug. 6, 2018, the Bishop stressed in a special statement that laity are “essential” in any investigation into sexual abuse by priests, adding “I think we have reached a point where bishops alone investigating bishops is not the answer. To have credibility, a panel would have to be separated from any source of power whose trustworthiness might potentially be compromised.” •  On Sept. 6, 2018, in a Letter to the Diocese, the bishop asked Albany District Attorney David Soares to review the diocesan records to see how sexual abuse cases have been handled in the past and “to what extent survivors were heard and believed, what processes were followed, and what consequences resulted.”

•  And most recently, on April 11, 2019, the Bishop formed an Abuse Task Force to establish protocols for greater accountability and increased transparency at all levels of the Diocese of Albany in the battle against sex abuse. The 11-person Task Force will meet every 4-to-6 weeks at the Siena College campus for a minimum of one year. “We are holding ourselves accountable before our people. No stone will be left unturned,” Bishop Scharfenberger said in his column. “Task Force members represent a cross-section of people in the Diocese who have the fortitude, experience and wisdom to bear the burden of addressing these critical issues in this dark hour.”

On May 9, Pope Francis released his new norms for holding bishops accountable in protecting minors, as well as religious orders and seminarians, from abuse. The document given “motu proprio,” on the pope’s own initiative, was titled “Vos estis lux mundi” (“You are the light of the world”), based on a verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew (5:14). “The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims and harm the community of the faithful,” the pope said in the document.

The norms go into effect June 1. U.S. bishop say the norms validate the procedures already in place in the United States but will provide a framework for their June meeting in Baltimore.