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Former Long Islander calls on Rockville Centre diocese to release names of accused clergy

Steven Werner, center, alleges a St. James priest

Steven Werner, center, alleges a St. James priest sexually abused him years ago. On Monday, he called on the Diocese of Rockville Centre to release a list of credibly accused clergy members.  Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa Loarca

A man who alleges a St. James priest sexually abused him decades ago is pushing the Diocese of Rockville Centre to release a list of clergy members credibly accused of assaulting minors.

Steven Werner called out the diocese Monday, flanked by his lawyer, Jeff Anderson, who on his own has compiled the names of 65 credibly accused priests who worked on Long Island. Werner, 61, now lives in North Carolina.    

The diocese's refusal to release a list maintains a long-standing culture of secrecy and cover-up in the Catholic Church, Anderson said at a news conference in Uniondale.

“There is a list. They have it,” said Anderson, whose law practice is based in St. Paul, Minnesota. “And there is no good reason in God’s earth to not release it now.”

Many dioceses and orders nationwide began releasing lists last fall after a Pennsylvania grand jury report detailed thousands of clergy sexual abuse allegations. 

Of New York's eight dioceses, only Rockville Centre has yet to release a list, a state church official said. The New York Archdiocese, the Brooklyn diocese and the Jesuit province that includes New York State have released lists in the past few months. 

The Rockville Centre diocese has turned over the names of all credibly accused clergy members to law enforcement officials but won't consider releasing a list until after its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program wraps up later this year, spokesman Sean Dolan said. 

Under the program, victims receive financial settlements if they agree not to sue the diocese. 

“At this time, the Diocese believes that while the investigations of claims and allegations are ongoing, it is premature to release a list of accused clergy,” Dolan said in a statement.

Anderson obtained the names on his list from public sources, including a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report and websites that track priests, as well as the diocese. For the past 15 years, the diocese has disclosed clergy sexual abuse allegations on its website. 

Werner alleges he was abused in the 1970s by the Rev. Peter Charland at Saints Philips and James in St. James. He was a member of youth folk music group headed by Charland, who died in 2004 at age 58. Eight members have filed allegations against Charland with the Suffolk County district attorney.  

For Werner, a list from the diocese “is all really about transparency and accountability.” 

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