National--SNAP Fact Sheet: Bishops posting predator priests’ names
Why is it important that predator priests’ names are exposed?
First, because it’s the quickest, easiest, cheapest and most effective way to protect kids now. If a chemical company CEO knows of 20 or 30 places in a city where toxic chemicals have been dumped, her first duty is to warn the public. (Then, she must of course fence in the properties, put up ‘DANGER’ signs and take other remedial steps.)
Since bishops recruited, educated, ordained, hired, trained, transferred and shielded these predators – often until criminal statutes of limitations expired so prosecution wasn’t possible – the LEAST bishops can do is make it easier for police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the public to learn who these predators are so they can keep their loved ones away from them.
Second, because it helps heal the wounded. Somewhere, there’s an elderly Catholic mom on her knees praying “God forgive me for being a bad parent. Sally has an eating disorder and Bill is an alcoholic. I’ve obviously done something wrong.” When she sees Fr. John Smith exposed as a predator, she calls her kids and they acknowledge “Yes, he molested me,” and the whole family begins to stop blaming themselves and start their recovery. (“The truth,” the Bible says, “shall set us free.”)
Third, because it helps reassure Catholics. Until bishops “come clean” about all predator priests, parishioners must look up from the pews at their pastor and wonder “Has he committed or concealed child sex crimes?” They must wonder “Is the priest who baptized our kids or performed our wedding a predator?” and “Did Fr. Jack really retire or did they take him out of the parish because he’s an abuser?”
Fourth, because it’s what bishops have repeatedly pledged, for decade, to do: be “open and transparent about clergy sex crimes and abuse.” In fact, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ national abuse policy, adopted in 2002, mandates “openness.”
Has this been done before?
Yes. About 30 US bishops have posted predators’ names.
Why are you asking bishops to do this now?
Because there’s a slow trend in this direction already. Last month, the Seattle Catholic archdiocese released a list of 77 child molesting clerics who worked there. Over the last year or two, seven Minnesota-based church institutions did likewise. Next month, Yakima’ bishop may do the same.
And because while we’re very grateful for the attention to the film “Spotlight,” we fear any have fallen prey to the tempting myth, so aggressively peddled by bishops, that “this is mostly in the past.” It’s not.
And because every day the identities and whereabouts of these priests stay hidden, more kids are needlessly being put in harm’s way.
When were predators priests’ names posted by a diocese first?
Bishops in Tucson and Baltimore posted predators’ names in 2002.
Aren’t many predator priests dead?
Yes. But many are alive too. Exposing the living predators helps safeguard kids. Exposing the deceased predators helps victims heal. Exposing any predators helps Catholics move forward and helps make the church a healthier place and helps deter future cover ups.
Has any bishop posted names but said later “I wish I hadn’t done it?”
Nope, not that we’ve seen.
How can bishops declare priests guilty of abuse without criminal or civil trials?
Church officials routinely suspend priests when they deem child sex abuse accusations against them “credible.” Most times, they announce this publicly. Many times, there are other, previous allegations of abuse in the priests’ personnel files. Often, when confronted by their church supervisors, pedophile priests admit their crimes.
Our view is that if a priest is too dangerous to have working in a parish, then he’s too dangerous to have living among unsuspecting neighbors. And it’s the duty of that predator priest’s bishop to warn the public about him.