This week, the nonprofit news organization ProPublica released a database of Catholic clergy members “credibly accused of sexual abuse or misconduct.” The database is a collection of lists provided by Catholic dioceses across the United States.
This is the latest chapter in a long story of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The Boston Globe’s Spotlight division broke devastating news of abuse in the Boston Archdiocese almost 20 years ago. And just this week a former Dallas-area priest was arrested in Missouri, who, according to a Dallas Police Department search warrant affidavit, admitted to abusing as many as 50 children in the 1980s.
Lexi Churchill is a Scripps Howard research reporting fellow at ProPublica who worked on the project. She says ProPublica collected the lists of credibly accused clergy members after the church made them available following a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report.
“That was really the big watershed moment for the release of these lists,” Churchill says.
But one snag, she says, is that what constitutes a “credible” allegation varies among dioceses.
“‘Credible’ really comes down to what each individual bishop or Catholic leader, themselves, define as a substantiated report of abuse,” Churchill says.
ProPublica put nearly 6,000 names of clergy members into its database, but it found that the church had left off some names based on reports of abuse from other sources. Also, even when a clergy member was named, the church rarely had information about how many people that person abused.
Written by Morgan Kuehler.