Church’s Omissions Raise Concerns Over Transparency
In an era demanding greater transparency and accountability from institutions, the Roman Catholic Church faces a critical juncture. The recent Associated Press investigation reveals significant omissions in the Church’s public lists of the clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse.
5 Key Points about Clergy Sexual Abuse:
- Over 900 clergy accused of child sexual abuse are missing from the Church’s publicly released lists.
- Discrepancies were discovered by comparing diocesan lists with databases from Bishop-Accountability.org and other sources.
- Criteria for inclusion in these lists vary widely among dioceses, leading to inconsistencies.
- The Church’s approach to transparency is challenged by the need to balance against reputational harm to the accused.
- The situation underscores the Church’s struggle with transparency and the need for comprehensive reporting to aid victims and rebuild trust.
Renewed Scrutiny for How Abuse Is Handled
The Roman Catholic Church’s ongoing struggle with sexual abuse within its ranks has come under renewed scrutiny. Recent findings suggest that many accused clergy members are missing from the Church’s publicly released lists of those who are credibly accused of child sexual abuse. This revelation raises significant questions about the Church’s commitment to transparency and accountability.
An extensive analysis by The Associated Press (AP) reveals a troubling gap in the Church’s efforts to acknowledge and address this crisis publicly. Despite the release of nearly 5,300 names by various dioceses, over 900 clergy members with accusations of child sexual abuse were not included. This discrepancy was discovered by meticulously comparing public diocesan lists with a database maintained by Bishop-Accountability.org and other sources such as bankruptcy documents, lawsuits, and media accounts.
Among those omitted, more than a hundred have faced charges for sexual crimes, including rape and possession of child pornography. Furthermore, nearly 400 additional clergy members were accused in dioceses that have not released any names at all. This underreporting undermines the Church’s efforts to rebuild trust and highlights the ongoing challenges in achieving full transparency.
Criteria For Inclusion Varies Widely
The criteria for inclusion on these lists vary widely between dioceses. Some have excluded classes of clergy, such as priests in religious orders, deceased priests with only one allegation, and deacons or seminarians. Others, like former priest Richard J. Poster, were initially left off due to technicalities or narrow definitions of qualifying offenses. Poster, for instance, was only added after inquiries by the AP, despite a history of child pornography possession and other inappropriate behavior.
Church officials argue that the decision to release names must be balanced against the potential harm to the reputations of those who may have been falsely accused. However, this approach has drawn criticism from victim advocates who argue for broader and more detailed lists as essential steps toward protecting children and aiding victims.
The inconsistencies and gaps in the Church’s reporting are not just limited to individual dioceses. Due to jurisdictional complexities, priests from religious orders serving in diocesan schools and parishes often go unreported. This situation is exemplified by the case of Richard J. McCormick, a Salesian priest accused of molesting children in multiple states yet absent from any diocesan list.
The Underreporting Problem
The underreporting problem is further compounded by the varied standards and processes used by diocesan review boards to determine the credibility of allegations. Often needing more transparency, these boards are crucial in deciding which names are released. As a result, many clergy members whose accusers received settlements or legal payouts have been excluded from the lists.
The impact of these omissions is profound. Victims like Joey Covino, who recognized his abuser, McCormick, on a list posted by a lawyer, illustrate the significance of public acknowledgment for healing and justice. Covino’s story, leading to McCormick’s conviction, underscores the potential consequences of underreporting.
Growing Pressure for Accountability
In response to the growing pressure for accountability, some dioceses have included priests under investigation on their lists, removing them only if allegations are unsubstantiated. While not universally adopted, this approach represents a step towards the level of transparency that victims and advocates demand.
The revelations from the AP investigation serve as a stark reminder of the Church’s ongoing challenge to address its history of sexual abuse fully. As calls for complete transparency and accountability grow louder, the Church faces a critical moment in its efforts to restore trust and ensure the safety of its members.