USA Today Investigation Reveals Dangers of Laicizing Abusers Without Oversight
A new investigation into Catholic clerics who have left or been expelled from the priesthood has confirmed many of our deepest fears about this scandal: that dangerous men are set loose upon unsuspecting communities, without oversight, allowing them to find jobs, positions, and homes near children and the vulnerable.
The USA Today report echoes findings from an Associated Press report earlier this year, showing how Catholic leaders have simply washed their hands of abusive priests after laicizing them or otherwise forcing them out of the Church. And while taking steps to remove clergy who abuse children or vulnerable adults is an obvious and necessary result, as these investigations show it is not enough. Church officials cannot ordain and train abusive priests only to ignore their responsibility to monitor and warn communities about them after they have hurt children.
Despite protestations to the contrary, Catholic leaders are not powerless here. The new USCCB President, Archbishop Jose Gomez, can demand that all dioceses immediately post the names of all priests, brothers, nuns, deacons and other church staff who have been publicly accused of abuse. He can require that all bishops who have already posted their lists now update them to include names that were withheld. He can create a new monitoring system that ensures that those who abuse children or vulnerable adults are monitored when they are forced out of their roles.
Posting names publicly is a critical step to ensure that communities are informed and that parents and parishioners have the information they need to protect children and stay vigilant. But more important than relying on Catholic leaders is changing secular laws so that survivors can have their day in court and expose publicly not only those who hurt them but also those who covered up the crimes. By reforming civil laws like the statute of limitations, children and the vulnerable will be safer because we will be less reliant on the voluntary disclosures of a secret institution. It is a simple fact that when abusers are exposed, communities are safer.
We are grateful to the reporting team at USA today for undertaking this investigation and sharing this information publicly. We hope that in the future, Church officials will be open, transparent, and honest so that such investigations are no longer necessary.
CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (517-974-9009, firstname.lastname@example.org)