A new, independent database listing nearly 6,000 priests accused of abuse was launched this week, marking what some observers say is a sign of a new era of transparency in the Catholic Church and others labeling it the “privatization of justice” after years of church leaders blocking such efforts.
The database, which was activated on Monday, was a yearlong effort by ProPublica, “a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.” The launch comes after the 2018 release of the Pennsylvania grand jury report, which sent shock waves through the U.S. Church as it chronicled seven decades of abuse of more than 1,000 victims at the hands of 300 priests.
Since then, numerous dioceses have rushed to publish their own list of accused priests.
“Nationwide, the names of more than 5,800 clergy members have been released so far, representing the most comprehensive step toward transparency yet by a Catholic Church dogged by its long history of denying and burying abuse by priests,” write the researchers behind the ProPublica effort.
According to them, when surveying the lists which led to their efforts to compile the names into one accessible and searchable database, “numerous alleged abusers have been omitted and that there is no standard for determining who each diocese considers credibly accused.”
As of January 20, they note, there have been at least 178 lists produced by U.S. dioceses and religious orders. 41 dioceses and dozens more religious orders, they write, have not yet done so.
Terence McKiernan, president and co-director of the organization, Bishop Accountability, hailed the ProPublica effort as one that “absolutely will increase pressure on other dioceses to publish lists.”
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