Where Can I Find a List of Priests Charged With Abuse?
The Catholic church has been rocked by scandals perpetrated by its own leaders, with charges of abuse being levied against clergy members for years. Sex abuse claims have fueled anger, despair and frustration not only in the Catholic church but also among Southern Baptists and United Methodist churches, which have also had their share of abuse charges.
As Stephen Schneck, a political science professor at Catholic University, explained to PBS News Hour, "The sex abuse scandals will have a spillover effect on attitudes toward religion. I don't think any denomination is going to not take a hit." While more work needs to be done to uncover the damage, the Catholic church has made moves to remove the veil of secrecy by publishing a list of priests charged with abuse.
Abuse by Clergy Members Has a Long, Fraught History
The Catholic church has paid out billions of dollars to settle abuse claims. And it has been plagued by accusations for decades, with a history dating back past the mid-1950s. Reverend Tom Doyle — one of the first priests to draw attention to the Catholic church’s sexual abuse and pedophilia in the priesthood — alleges that the history of clergy abusing children dates back to the century the church was founded: A.D. 98.
In 1947, the Reverend Gerald Fitzgerald founded the Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete, a treatment center for priests accused of pedophilia or living with alcohol and substance abuse problems, located in Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Decades later, a lawyer for the center said the center was meant for priests having a crisis of faith.
A priest serving the Diocese of Lafayette in Louisiana was the first priest indicted for sex crimes against children in 1985. The priest pleaded guilty in 1986 and was sentenced to 20 years, although he only ended up serving nine years in prison.
In 1997, a jury in Dallas, Texas, awarded 11 abuse survivors $119 million in their suit against the Catholic church. At the time, a spokesperson said that they hoped it would bring awareness about the issue to the pope.
In 2001, the Diocese of Tucson made headlines as the first religious organization to release a list of priests accused of abuse. And in the years since, dioceses across the country have followed suit, although others seemingly kept quiet for years. In total, more than 6,800 U.S.-based Catholic priests have been "credibly accused of sexual abuse" of more than 19,000 abuse survivors.
Information About Charges Is Compiled Online
If you're looking into the priests who work or have worked in your local diocese, that's an important place to start. More than 50 dioceses across the United States released a list to the public a few years ago that named 5,000+ priests accused of abuse. Calling your diocese or visiting its website may help you access this information.
Your church, or the one you’re contacting, may not have detailed lists readily available. There are also two websites — each of which is devoted to providing factual information to its readers — that offer interactive or searchable lists of priests who have been credibly charged with abuse. The first, BishopAccountability.org, includes a database that you can search alphabetically by last name, diocese or state. Each entry provides the priest's status, affiliated diocese and the source of the information along with detailed notes about the charges.
The second website, ProPublica, is a non-profit newsroom. It also operates an interactive database that lets you search by diocese, city and priest name. It covers 178 dioceses and orders and includes a list of more than 6,800 accused clergy members.
The Church Falls Short in Handling Accusations
Abuse among the clergy has occurred for decades, if not centuries. But lists detailing those who have been charged with abuse are relatively new. Because of this, the lists aren't necessarily exhaustive; the majority of the priests on the dioceses' lists were charged in the last several years. That means there may be a lower likelihood of the lists providing names of priests charged in earlier crimes.
A recent investigation conducted jointly by the Houston Chronicle and ProPublica found that 51 priests who’d been accused of abuse continued in active roles outside of the U.S. Many were reassigned to other countries, including Ireland, the Philippines and Nigeria. Approximately 40 work along the country's southern border in both Mexico and southern Texas. An additional study found that hundreds of names were left off of the lists provided by the dioceses. This underlines how pervasive the problem is and highlights the difficulties that arise in attempts to gather accurate information.