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June 26, 2019

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Diocese in Las Vegas identifies ‘credibly accused’ priests

Diocese Releases Names of

Steve Marcus

George Leo Thomas, left, bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas and David Roger, former Clark County district attorney and chair of the Diocesan Clergy Oversight Committee/Independent Review Board, respond to questions during a news conference at the Diocese of Las Vegas offices Friday, April 12, 2019. The Diocese named 33 former priests and church associates who it says have been “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct.

Updated Friday, April 12, 2019 | 5:55 p.m.

Diocese Releases Names of "Credibly Accused" Priests

George Leo Thomas, bishop of the Diocese of Las Vegas responds to questions during a news conference at the Diocese of Las Vegas offices Friday, April 12, 2019. The Diocese named 33 former priests and church associates who it says have been Launch slideshow »

The Diocese of Las Vegas today released a list of 27 one-time Catholic priests and five church associates “credibly accused” of sexual misconduct involving children.

Most of those on the list — 21 — are dead, while the remaining were permanently removed from their positions, Bishop George Leo Thomas said.

The findings were turned over to law enforcement, but the cases are “pretty old,” Thomas said.

“We’ve had enough of words and enough of empty promises,” Thomas said. “The church has been in secrecy and denial for a very long time, and I think bringing everything out into the light is a very important, big first step.”

The eight-month review was spearheaded by Thomas and began about three months after he arrived in Las Vegas in May.

Eleven of the men on the list were ordained in Las Vegas, while the rest were here on a temporary basis. Three of the 33 men were accused after 1995.

It wasn’t clear how many children were involved.

“Oftentimes, the pain and great suffering that victim survivors feel is still in the present tense, still in the present moment,” Thomas said. “So, it’s very important for the church to listen attentively to the heart and mind of our surviving community” and take action, he said.

In 1995, the Nevada Diocese, which was founded in 1931, split into northern and southern districts. Since then, the Diocese of Las Vegas has shelled out up to $15 million in individual settlements and counseling, Thomas said.

The disclosures come amid similar revelations in church districts around the country and invitations from church leaders for abuse victims to come forward. Last week, the Diocese of Reno published its own list, which named 11 men also on the Las Vegas list.

The standard applied for deeming an allegation credible was similar to that of probable cause in a criminal case, said attorney David Roger, the former Clark County district attorney who headed a five-member review board.

The investigative board reviewed files throughout the state and looked in every “nook and cranny,” including complaints and settlements, he said.

Both lists referred to an open investigation involving Philip Napolitano, a 76-year-old brother, who served at schools in North Las Vegas and Reno.

The Reno Diocese has promised to make the final results public.

Reached by telephone at Brothers of the Holy Rosary in Reno, Napolitano said he could not comment about the allegations against him. He declined to provide the name of a legal representative.

The list included three other brothers, one employee and one volunteer.

Twelve men were listed based on complaints in other states, including Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New York and Pennsylvania, although the Las Vegas Diocese review panel reported no complaints against them in Nevada.

Notable on the list was Mark Thomas Roberts, a former pastor at a church in suburban Henderson who was said to have been the first Nevada priest accused in a nationwide church sex abuse scandal.

Roberts was removed in 2001 as pastor at St. Peter the Apostle Church. A 2002 lawsuit against Roberts and the church listed six male victims, none by name.

Roberts pleaded guilty in 2003 to lewdness and child abuse and was sentenced to three years of probation and treatment at a center for priests in Dittmer, Missouri.

Thomas said transparency and the zero-tolerance policy implemented by the Catholic Church in 2002 toward sexual misconduct are steps in the right direction. But the idea of a priest preying on a child is “one of the great anomalies.”

“I simply don’t know what would happen to make anybody harm a child,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.