Abuse survivors to Diocese of Rockville Centre: Release names of credibly accused priests

Brian Toale and Janet Klinger, who both said they were sexually abused when they were children, stood outside St. Agnes Cathedral on May 2, calling on the Diocese of Rockville Centre to release the names of accused priests.
Brian Toale and Janet Klinger, who both said they were sexually abused when they were children, stood outside St. Agnes Cathedral on May 2, calling on the Diocese of Rockville Centre to release the names of accused priests.
Ben Strack/Herald

Members of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, stood outside St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre on May 2 to call on Bishop John Barres to release the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of abusing children.

“Every day that a predator’s name is hidden, kids are at risk of horrific abuse,” said Janet Klinger, a survivor of clergy sexual abuse and a leader for SNAP. “Barres must post credibly accused clerics’ names immediately. That’s the only responsible, caring choice to make.”

The small rally came less than a week after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York released the names of 115 priests and five deacons who were “credibly accused” of sexually abusing children.

“The Diocese of Rockville Centre remains vigilant in its protection of all minors,” Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, wrote to the Herald in an email last week, noting that the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program is still open, and it “believes that while the investigations of claims and allegations are ongoing, it is premature to release a list of accused clergy.” He added that not one priest or deacon of the diocese who has been the subject of a credible and substantiated claim of abuse against a child is in the ministry, and that all allegations, credible are not, are reported to authorities.

But Klinger noted at the rally, “It’s never premature to warn the public about potentially dangerous men,” adding that Catholic officials are often investigating abuse claims, calling the delay “baloney.” She also urged Long Island Catholics to donate to charities that help children and fight abuse, rather than give money to the church.

Klinger said she was abused in 1968 by the Rev. John Mott at St. Pius X church in Plainview. She was joined by fellow survivor Brian Toale, and Mary McKenna, an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse who said people close to her were abused by a priest at her home parish in Brooklyn.

Though many of the priests whose names would be released are either defrocked are dead — a majority of the alleged abuse took place decades ago — outing them publicly can provide healing and spur others to share their stories, SNAP members said.

“Naming names can help a victim by providing a public acknowledgment of a vile abuser,” McKenna, 65, said. “It can provide an opportunity for a victim to tell a family member, a close friend, a counselor. It can help a victim understand that they are not alone, that it is not their fault.

“I can’t understand why people are not protecting the children and that this whole place isn’t filled with people protesting,” she added, raising her voice.

Toale, 65, who grew up in Freeport, said he was abused by Frank Lind, the communications supervisor at Chaminade High School in 1970 and 1971. Lind served as the moderator for the school’s Amateur Radio Club, which Toale was a member of.

The alleged abuse, which lasted about nine months, took place in the Radio Club meeting room and a crawlspace under the school, he recalled in a 2016 letter he sent to Brother Joseph Dominick Bellizzi, Chaminade’s principal at the time. Bellizzi never responded to the letter, he said.

Lind, who Toale said is now deceased, would force Toale, who was 16 at the time, to perform oral sex on him, threatening to shame him by showing family members and friends photos of the acts if he ever tried to tell anyone.

“For the longest time, I thought it was my fault,” Toale said outside of St. Agnes. “…I didn’t understand what had happened, and my strategy at that age was to get as far away from it as possible.”

He only told a counselor, not coming forward publicly with his story until about the time he sent the letter, at age 62.

Though Lind was not a clergy member, Toale is active in SNAP, and said he has hired an attorney to file a lawsuit in August, when the one-year window opened by the Child Victims Act commences. “My life was pretty messed up for quite awhile,” he said.

In addition to providing victims of child abuse a one-year window to initiate lawsuits, the state law, signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February, raises the age from 23 to 28 in the statute of limitations for people in New York to seek criminal charges against their abusers and allows victims of such crimes to initiate a civil lawsuit before they turn 55.

Klinger released the names of six clergy members who formerly worked in the diocese, who she said were “credibly and publicly accused . . . but have attracted little or no attention here.”

Boston lawyer Mitchell Garabedian released two other names last week — the Rev. Edward J. Byrne, who allegedly abused a boy in 1971 and 1972 while assigned to St. Barnabas Apostle Church in Bellmore, and the Rev. Harold H. Paul, who was accused of abusing a boy at St. Joseph’s Church in Hewlett in 1961. Both victims filed claims through the diocese’s IRCP and received financial settlements last year, Garabedian said.

“By delaying the release of a list of pedophile priests, the Diocese of Rockville Centre continues secrecy, which helps continue the wholesale sexual abuse of children,” Garabedian said.

“The diocese continuously works to strengthen its efforts towards child protection, abuse prevention and pastoral outreach to survivors,” Dolan said in a statement.

Though not involved with SNAP, Sean O’Brien, 48, who grew up in Rockville Centre and said he was repeatedly sodomized by the Rev. John J. McGeever in the St. Agnes rectory basement in 1981 and 1982, told the Herald he also believes the names should be released.

“Hopefully some of these victims who haven’t come forward yet see that priest’s name, their abuser on that list, and they are able to start the healing process,” O’Brien said. “That would be a prayer.”