The investigative newsroom ProPublica has published an interactive database that lets users search for clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse in official reports.
Nearly 200 lists have been released by Catholic authorities across the country, but until now, there has been no centralized, up-to-date registry of alleged offenders.
Credibly Accused, as the interactive clergy abuse database is known, gives survivors and employers the closest thing they can get to a full picture. Survivors can use the site to get the information they need to pursue a clergy abuse lawsuit, and employers can screen potential hires and prevent credibly accused predators from taking the wrong job.
How to Use the Interactive Clergy Abuse Database
ProPublica compiled names and information from all 178 lists published by Catholic authorities in the United States. This included 156 lists from dioceses and 22 from religious orders that represent 64.7 million Catholics. In total, the database contains the names of nearly 6,000 priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
Users can search all of this information in a variety of ways, depending on what they need.
For example, users can:
- Search the name of a diocese to see the names of clergy that served there and have been credibly accused
- Find all official information about a certain priest
- Screen a job applicant
- Find clergy who may have served in a diocese or order that has yet to release a list
Currently, lists of credibly accused clergy are still outstanding from 41 dioceses and religious orders, which cover some 9 million Catholics in the United States. For those whose diocese has not released a list, ProPublica encourages them to use information from the other lists because many clergy served in multiple locations.
ProPublica has promised to update the database as dioceses and religious orders release new names or make changes to the lists. Such revisions are frequent, and salt in the wounds of clergy abuse survivors and their families who are looking for the facts they need to move forward.
Problems With the Church Lists of Credibly Accused Clergy
After concluding its report, ProPublica wrote, “Though the scores of disclosures over the past year represent a significant step toward transparency for the church, our reporting indicates that a number of gaps remain.”
Some of the issues were structural. For instance, no standard of reporting was enforced, so the “makeup of disclosures differed widely between dioceses.” Some lists contained no more than names and occupations, whereas others contain details about specific allegations of abuse. Criteria about what counted as “credible abuse” also varied between institutions.
Adding to the confusion were the constant revisions. As the ProPublica journalists compiled data over the last year, they found that “dioceses added or removed names frequently without explanation.”
The findings echoed an earlier investigation from the Associated Press, which found that hundreds of names of credibly accused clergy were missing from the lists published by church officials.
Many survivors have come forward in anger because their abuser’s name has been omitted. Some had even settled abuse claims with the Catholic Church, yet the priest who injured them was still not named.
It was hoped that naming predators would allow the Catholic Church to begin making amends for covering up child sexual abuse. Unfortunately, it seems like another chapter in the familiar tug-of-war between public interests and a secretive group of powerful individuals desperate to protect their reputation.
States Relax Limits of Statute of Limitations in Clergy Sex Abuse Lawsuits
Most Catholics have been calling for transparency since the clergy abuse crisis began. Instead of punishing abusers and supporting survivors, however, church leadership covered up crimes. As a result, serial predators like Theodore McCarrick rose to positions of power.
The lack of transparency on the part of the Church effectively silenced victims for many years. Now, seeing their abuser’s name on an official list, people who were unable to speak up for decades about their trauma are coming forward.
A handful of states have changed the laws governing statutes of limitations for child sexual abuse in order to allow survivors a chance to seek justice.
Some have extended the statute of limitations, which give people more time to file a claim after they become an adult. A few of the states have created “look-back windows,” which create a temporary period for survivors of child sex abuse to file a claim regardless of when the abuse occurred.
If you or someone you know was abused as a child while in the care of the Catholic Church, know that it was not your fault. Moving forward is not easy, but filing a clergy abuse lawsuit is an important step that survivors can take in order to secure support for the difficult road ahead.