New database of abusive clergy will force greater transparency

New database of abusive clergy will force greater transparency

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 Church and others labelling it the “privatisation of justice” after years of Church leaders blocking such efforts.

The database, which was activated last week, was a yearlong effort by ProPublica, “a non-profit 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 US 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 US dioceses and religious orders. 41 dioceses and dozens more religious orders, they write, have not yet done so.

Terrence McKierney, president and co-director of the organisation, Bishop Accountability, hailed the ProPublica effort as one that “absolutely will increase pressure on other dioceses to publish lists.”

He said that the US Church has witnessed “a groundswell of transparency” following the latest wave of abuse scandals, much of it forced by outside circumstances.

Even so, he applauded the US bishops and dioceses for releasing these names, something that abuse survivors and accountability groups have long advocated for over the past two decades.