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1,700 Catholic Priests Accused Of Child Sex Abuse Are Living Under The Radar In The U.S., Investigation Finds

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The problem of child sexual abuse in organizations that give open access to children like the Boy Scouts, Little League and churches is a major concern for parents.

And while most of the other organizations lack the resources to cover up the crimes, the international nature and power of the Catholic Church has allowed abuse and abusers to be hidden for many years.


A recent investigation by the Associated Press (AP) reported:

"nearly 1,700 priests and other clergy members that the Roman Catholic Church considers credibly accused of child sexual abuse are living under the radar with little to no oversight from religious authorities or law enforcement."

AP said the group of "priests, deacons, monks and lay people" now:

  • teach middle-school math
  • counsel survivors of sexual assault
  • work as nurses
  • volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids
  • live next to playgrounds and day care centers
  • foster and care for children
And while some have not been found violating laws, dozens have "committed crimes including sexual assault and possessing child pornography."
The report comes in the wake of some United States Catholic dioceses calling for the publication of the names of clergy with a "credibly accused" of sexual abuse. But many of those clergy members left the church to become lay people and most were never charged with a crime.
In contrast to the dioceses calling for enhanced accountability, both the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church have lobbied against changes to statutes that would give victims of childhood sexual abuse more time to accuse their abuser and seek justice. Many cases never go to criminal court due to relatively short statutes of limitation for sexual crimes and the abused are also blocked from suing their abusers and the organizations that hid their crimes.
AP's report was based on the names released by those dioceses. Over 5,100 clergy members' names were released. Nearly 2,000 remain alive.
Of those alive, AP found nearly 1,700 had little or no restrictions or oversight. 76 of the of the almost 2,000 could not be located by the AP. The balance of the 2,000 were found to be living under some form of supervision.
AP's analysis found that more than 310 of the 2,000 were charged with crimes when they were priests.

65 were with various crimes committed after leaving the church and most were convicted. 46 of the 65 were charged and convicted of crimes of a sexual nature.

While the vast majority of U.S. dioceses released their records, the over 5,100 names released do not include the records of 20 dioceses that say they plan to release the names from their diocese nor 10 dioceses that have made no announcements yet. Two dioceses released partial information.

The credible accusations reported include inappropriate comments and unsolicited hugging up to and including sexual contact and assault. Because of the broad scope of the accusations, encompassing non-criminal acts as well as criminal acts, tracking which individuals are a clear and present danger becomes muddied.

But after centuries of abuses within the Catholic Church, seeing them take some accountability is a first step in the right direction. But first steps become meaningless when additional steps don't follow.

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