This database is intended to provide the best possible answer to a simple question: According to a church-sponsored report based on diocesan records, 4,392 Catholic priests in the United States have been accused since 1950 of sexually abusing minors. Updates have increased the USCCB’s count to 6,275 priests accused through 2012. See our page tabulating the USCCB’s annual updates. Who are these priests and where have they worked?
The answer to this question is an urgent concern for many people:
- Survivors (particularly those who don’t know yet that the priest who abused them has been accused by others),
- Catholic parents in vulnerable parishes where offending priests have served,
- Parents of children attending summer camps where accused priests have worked,
- Citizens in vulnerable communities where priests have preyed on children, or where suspended or laicized priests are now living,
- Law enforcement officials who are trying to collect information on offenders in their jurisdictions,
- Lawmakers who are considering proposals to modify statutes of limitations and reporting laws relating to sexual abuse,
- Catholic laypeople who wish to participate knowledgeably in parish councils, finance councils, diocesan offices, and other roles within the church,
- Priests, bishops, and Vatican officials of good will who seek to understand and remedy the crisis,
- Journalists who require up-to-date information, and
- Scholars who are studying the dynamics of the crisis.
On this page we explain the genesis of this database project and its current status; then we offer a detailed description of its contents, our posting policy, and the conventions we follow in displaying the data. We also acknowledge the people who have made this database possible.
Genesis of the Project
This project combines information from three main sources:
– The database of accused priests maintained by attorney Sylvia Demarest and donated to BishopAccountability.org in 2004,
– The database of accused priests created by SurvivorsFirst.org and transferred to the BishopAccountability.org site in 2005, and
– Hundreds of new names found by researchers at BishopAccountability.org and immediately added to the database. This process is ongoing.
All of the names in our database originated either in media reports (including some pioneering collections of names gathered by enterprising reporters) or in publicly filed court documents. We thank the courageous victims who filed civil suits, their attorneys, the prosecutors who pressed charges when the statutes of limitations allowed, and the journalists who brought these and other accusations into public view. Our database tabulates their findings.
Current Status of the Project
The first version of the database consisted of the SurvivorsFirst.org database with updates added on March 14, 2005. The database is currently updated daily as new media reports and documents become available. We are also improving descriptions and adding links to older listings regularly. See the most recent description of the database with counts of the bishops, priests, nuns, brothers, deacons, and seminarians who are included.
Detailed Description of the Database
What exactly does the database consist of?
• The database is a list of diocesan and religious order priests, brothers, seminarians, deacons and nuns in the Roman Catholic church in the United States who face an allegation or legal action (criminal or civil) relating to sexual abuse of a child or possession of child pornography, as reported in a newspaper article or other media source or documented in public court filings.
• Alleged acts of sexual abuse or possession of child pornography by lay teachers, church volunteers, church administrators, or other diocesan or religious order employees are excluded.
• A child is defined as a person under 18 at the time the alleged offense occurred.
• The legal definition of sexual abuse is state-specific and we defer to the state-specific definition of sexual abuse when questions arise. Incidents of alleged sexual abuse of adults, murder, theft, drug use, or other crimes are not included.
• The database references and links to articles and reports from reputable news services including newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. It is the understanding of BishopAccountability.org that the news services’ reporters, editorial staff and/or attorneys have reviewed the facts and approved them for publication. The database may also include documents from other reputable sources.
• The database may also reference and link to investigative reports from government agencies, pleadings and other documents filed in criminal and civil court proceedings, as well as materials obtained in discovery and not under protective order.
• The database is not typically the original reporter of any new information or new allegations. Each allegation that we list has already been reported in public sources. The database “re-reports” or “re-formats” information in the public domain.
• An individual is included in the database only if BishopAccountability.org has obtained appropriate documentation. This is typically a copy of a newspaper article from a reputable newspaper or a copy of the legal documents filed in court and maintained in a public file.
• The database does not state or imply that individuals facing allegations are guilty of a crime or liable for civil claims. The reports contained in the database are merely allegations. The U.S. legal system presumes that a person accused of or charged with a crime is innocent until proven guilty. Similarly, individuals who may be defendants in civil actions are presumed not to be liable for such claims unless a plaintiff proves otherwise. Admissions of guilt or liability are not typically a part of civil or private settlements.
• Every attempt is made to keep the database current and accurate. BishopAccountability.org monitors news sources for updates in an individual’s case.
In the U.S. legal system, all accused persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty. This database is based generally on allegations reported publicly in the media or publicly filed in the courts. BishopAccountability.org, Inc. does not confirm the veracity of any actual allegation, and this database is not a representation of the legal case history of an individual. Professional and reasonable efforts have been made to ensure accuracy, including quality-control review. Each reported allegation has been double-checked with the cited source document. Please note:
- If the newspaper article that we cite also includes an individual’s denial of an accusation against him, we record this denial in the Notes field.
- Each individual is assigned to one diocese in the database. In cases where an individual worked in multiple dioceses, we assign the individual to a primary diocese. (Paul Shanley, for instance, worked in New York, San Bernardino, and Boston; Boston is designated as his primary diocese.) This practice is admittedly not perfect, and we will soon improve it by adding additional database fields for multiple dioceses. Our ultimate goal is to list all dioceses where a priest has been incardinated, and all dioceses where he has worked.
- We do not systematically track the status of internal church investigations (removed, cleared by church investigation, defrocked, etc.) or the individual’s current status with the church (such as active, retired, left priesthood). If this information is included in a newspaper article, we record it in the Notes field. No distinction is made among church disciplinary actions such as removed, relieved of duty, placed on leave, etc.; all of these disciplinary actions, when noted, are marked by the generic label “removed.”
- If an individual is “cleared” or “exonerated” by an internal church investigation and/or a diocesan review board decision, the individual remains in the database. The internal church investigation and/or diocesan Review Board decision is noted.
- If an individual is returned to ministry and/or is cleared by an internal church investigation and/or a diocesan review board decision, but the victim has not withdrawn the allegation, the individual remains in the database.
- If we learn that an individual has died, we indicate this in the Notes field.
- If a criminal investigation or civil lawsuit is dismissed because the alleged offense is beyond the statute of limitations, the accused individual has not been exonerated and remains listed in the database, unless the victim has withdrawn the allegation.
- If the individual faces an allegation for an act which occurred after the individual has left the church, the individual is listed in the database.
- If the individual was visiting from another country and faces an allegation, the individual is listed in the U.S. diocese where he or she worked.
- If an individual is sued after his or her death and the lawsuit is against his or her estate, diocese, or religious order, the individual is listed.
- If an individual faces an accusation that was the subject of an alternative dispute resolution or independent compensation program with an established protocol for evaluating allegations and harm, and if compensation was offered to a person who alleged sexual abuse as a minor by the individual, the individual is listed in the database.
- If a lawsuit is against the church or a bishop for negligence, and the accused individual is not a defendant in the lawsuit, the individual is included in the database, if the lawsuit asserts allegations of sexual abuse. However, individuals accused of negligence or cover-up, but not of sexual abuse, are not included in the database.
- If an individual is found not guilty or not liable after a trial, but other victims have come forward with allegations, the individual is listed in the database, and a note about the acquittal or defense finding is included in the Notes field.
- If a survivor publicly withdraws an allegation, recants, or states that the alleged perpetrator has been misidentified, and if there are no other allegations of abuse against the accused cleric, that cleric is removed from the database. If an allegation is withdrawn by a victim and this withdrawal is not reported by the news media, then there is a chance that the current status of this allegation is not reported in the database, despite our best efforts. If notified, we will correct our database entry.
- If a person who alleges abuse is indicted and convicted of extortion in the filing of his or her abuse claim, and if no other allegations have been made against the cleric, that cleric is removed from the database.
Retraction and Correction Policy
BishopAccountability.org is committed to truth, accuracy, and fairness. Corrections and comments on information appearing in the database are encouraged and can be sent to email@example.com. If BishopAccountability.org discovers facts establishing that any information appearing in the database is inaccurate, we will promptly take appropriate action, including but not limited to revising, correcting or withdrawing the information.
Explanation of Conventions, Searches, and Printing
The columns in the database are labeled as follows:
– Last = Last Name
– First = First Name
– T = Type. P=Priest, B=Brother, S=Seminarian, D=Deacon, N=Nun
– Status = Status of legal action if one exists
– D/O = Diocesan or Order employee. D=Diocesan O=Order
– Notes = Notes about legal action or allegation.
– Diocese = Primary diocese in which the individual worked
– ST = State in which the diocese is located
– Source = newspaper citation or docket number of legal action
A search of a page can be done quickly by using Find (under Edit in the Browser Menu) or typing Ctrl-F.
If you wish to print a smaller section of this large database, instead of printing a whole page, use your mouse to position the cursor at the top left corner of the area that you want to print. Then hold down the left button of your mouse while you draw the mouse down and to the right. When you have used this method to highlight the portion you wish to print, select the print command, click “Selection” in the Page Range part of the Print dialogue box, and then click “Print.”
People Who Have Contributed to the Database
BishopAccountability.org, Inc. is solely responsible for the information in this database, for its accuracy, and for any errors it might contain. We pay tribute to the survivors who have bravely come forward, and to the reporters, advocates, attorneys, and judges who brought those allegations before the public.
We thank the volunteers who have participated in the SurvivorsFirst.org and BishopAccountability.org database efforts. BishopAccountability.org is particularly grateful to Sylvia Demarest for the donation of her database, and to her colleague, Trish McLelland.
Thanks also to the priests who have contacted us with corrections to the database. A few bishops have publicly announced the names of accused priests against whom there were no known public allegations. We thank them for their contribution.