Despite the fact that the Catholic church keeps promising to increase transparency after each successive scandal about abusive priests who have been shielded by the church, ProPublica reports that some bishops continue to be opaque.
Over the last year and a half, the majority of U.S. dioceses, as well as nearly two dozen religious orders, have released lists of abusers currently or formerly in their ranks. The revelations were no coincidence: They were spurred by a 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report, which named hundreds of priests as part of a statewide clergy abuse investigation. 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.
But even as bishops have dedicated these lists to abuse victims and depicted the disclosures as a public acknowledgement of victims’ suffering, it has become clear that numerous alleged abusers have been omitted and that there is no standard for determining who each diocese considers credibly accused.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, or USCCB, has issued no instructions on disclosures related to credibly accused priests, leaving individual dioceses and religious orders to decide for themselves how much or how little to publish. The USCCB says it does not have the authority to order dioceses to release names or to resolve disputes over who should be on the lists, though in 2002 after a scandal in Boston, the conference did put in place new protocols intended to ensure alleged abuse by clergy was reported and tracked.
While the USCCB can propose policies for church leaders in the U.S., the bishops themselves are appointed by the pope and answer to him.
To deal with this problem, ProPublica has created a searchable database of priests who have been credibly accused of abuse.
It is long past due for the justice system to open a nationwide probe into the church’s abuses because what has been done are awful crimes that should not be investigated by the organization that enabled the crimes to occur.