Pope Francis has quietly released the names of over 1,000 pedophiles priests who have been accused of raping children.
Almost 50 dioceses and religious orders across the United States were given permission by the Vatican to release the names of Catholic officials who sexually abused children in the wake of the Pennsylvania report.
Abc.net.au reports: The Associated Press also found nearly 20 local, state or federal investigations, either criminal or civil, have also been launched since the release of the Pennsylvania grand jury findings.
Those investigations could lead to more names and more damning accusations, as well as fines against dioceses and court-ordered safety measures.
The Pennsylvania investigation, led by state Attorney-General Josh Shapiro, identified nearly 300 “predator priests” dating back seven decades and accused church leaders of covering up abuse, in some cases by returning priests to duty after short stays in treatment centres or by reassigning them.
Advocates said the report had a big impact because it was the largest to date in scope, encompassing most of the state.
“People saw what happened in these parishes in Pennsylvania and said, ‘That happened in my parish too’,” said Tim Lennon, national president of the board of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.
The recently disclosed accusations date back six or seven decades in some cases, with the oldest from the 1910s in Louisiana.
Most of the priests were long ago removed from ministry.
An Associated Press examination found that more than 60 per cent are dead and in most cases, the statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges or suing has run out.
Nevertheless, advocates say exposing molesters nearly two decades after the scandal first erupted in Boston in 2002 is an encouraging step, in part because it gives some victims a sense of vindication after decades of official silence or denials.
Also, it could increase pressure on dioceses to set up victims’ compensation funds, as the church has done in Pennsylvania already, and it could result in the removal of molesters from positions outside the church that give them access to children.
“This is a milestone,” said Joe McLean, who filed a lawsuit with other victims seeking to compel the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to release files on alleged abusers nationwide.
Pope Francis calls for unity in US church
In his Christmas address last month, Pope Francis made an unprecedented call for priests who had abused children to turn themselves in and vowed the church would “never again” hide their crimes. The world’s bishops will hold a summit at the Vatican next month to forge a comprehensive response to the crisis.
Pope Francis has since called on the US church to show unity as it tries to tackle a sexual abuse crisis, saying internal bickering had to end over the scandal which has decimated the credibility of the American Church.
In a long and highly unusual letter sent as US bishops started a week-long retreat to reflect on the spreading crisis, the Pope said the handling of the scandal showed the urgent need for a new approach to management and mindset within the church.
“God’s faithful people and the church’s mission continue to suffer greatly as a result of abuses of power and conscience and sexual abuse, and the poor way that they were handled,” the Pope wrote, adding bishops had “concentrated more on pointing fingers than on seeking paths of reconciliation”.
Details released vary across dioceses
The biggest list of names has come from the Jesuits West Province, a religious order that encompasses nine Western states. It identified 111 priests.
The New Orleans archdiocese and the diocese of Syracuse, New York, named 61 and 57 respectively.
The Great Falls-Billings, Montana, diocese disclosed 47 names, including those of a few nuns, while the Los Angeles archdiocese reported more than 50 from the past decade or so.
Some dioceses, like Peoria, Illinois, released only names with no information on the allegations or the church’s response.
Others detailed such things as parish assignments, numbers and dates of allegations — including an Omaha priest with 20 to 35 accusations against him — and attempts at treatment, restriction and punishment.
In the 16 years between the Boston scandal and the Pennsylvania investigation, only about 30 dioceses around the country had released lists of priests they deemed credibly accused of abuse.
Most of those dioceses came clean because they were forced to do so by lawsuits or bankruptcy filings.
Some dioceses declined to name any deceased priests, since they could not defend themselves, and some would not identify any clergy members at all.
While praising the release of names, many experts said the lists were often incomplete.
Terence McKiernan, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, which has tracked abuse for more than a decade, said many dioceses have left off names of known abusers his group has published in its online database.
“It’s not enough,” Pennsylvania’s Mr Shapiro agreed.
Mr Shapiro said he has spoken to 45 other attorneys-general since his report, and 14 had publicly acknowledged some form of investigation.