Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Database tracks Catholic priests accused of abuse; some names may not appear in your local diocese's list

When Catholic priests sexually abuse parishioners, too often the church transfers them to another diocese instead of defrocking them, and their crimes are rarely publicized. That can endanger the priests' new flock. So, ProPublica has created the first central, searchable database of 6,000-plus priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct, Lexi Churchill reports.

In 2018, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania named a lot of names, and prompted at least 178 Catholic community leaders across the nation to publish their own lists. ProPublica spent more than a year cataloguing those lists, resulting in a database with over 6,600 names, Churchill reports.

There was no central standard for who and what should be included in those lists, which led to incomplete and inconsistent reports that sometimes lack important details. "Several categories of clergy members are frequently left off lists. At least three dozen lists exclude members of religious order who were accused within their jurisdiction," Churchill reports. "Similarly, your diocese may leave off extern priests, who came to serve from another diocese or country, and priests who died before accusations were reported."

If your local diocese hasn't released a list, you can search state, city or nearby parishes and see if there is any overlap. You can also conduct your own public records searches for lawsuits against local Catholic churches and look into other resources. " gathers information from a wide range of sources beyond official lists. It can be a useful resource as you try to figure out who may be on an unreleased list," Churchill writes.

Reporters can also pressure local church leaders on whether and when they plan to release a list. Of the 41 dioceses that haven't published a list, many have said they plan to publish one soon, but many have gone long past their initial deadlines. If your diocese has released a list, it may still be missing names, so keep digging, Churchill advises.

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