What Happens to Priests Who Have Abused Children, After Leaving the Catholic Church?

The names of 5,100 members of clergy who have been credibly accused of committing acts of sexual abuse against children during their time within the church, have been released by various Dioceses and Archdioceses of the Roman Catholic Church in recent years. And of course, this number does not include all those priests who had sexual abuse allegations against them, but for some reason the Diocese judged those as not credible. Considering the dismal track record of the Catholic Church concerning transparency over the issue of sexual abuse, the number of priests who actually molested children is likely higher. Remarkably, nearly 1,700 laicized (meaning they could no longer act as priests) priests continue to live in society with very little oversight by the church or law enforcement. The Associated Press spent nearly a year tracking these individuals to try to better understand what has happened to the hundreds of alleged abusers who have left the church voluntarily or been ex-communicated.

Disgraced Clergy Alleged to Have Committed Crimes Against Children Not Held to Same Legal Standard as Sex Offenders

Most members of the church who are alleged to have committed child sex abuse are rarely reported by Diocese and Archdiocese to law enforcement, which has made it very difficult to hold former clergy members to the same standard of monitoring that sex offenders are held to. Hundreds of disgraced clergy members live within proximity to school and other organizations for young children that would be illegal for a registered sex offender. Over 160 of the nearly 1,700 reported on by the AP continue to work and volunteer in churches, some overseas. Nearly 200 obtained professional licenses to work in education, social work and counseling, 76 of which are still validly credentialed at the time of the reporting.

Very Little Transparency in Reporting of Clergy Abuse from Church

In the wake of the first in-depth reporting to be done on the long history of child sexual abuse and the tradition of covering-up abusers in the church in the early 2000’s, the Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. established the “Dallas Charter” which was supposed to serve as a template for dioceses across the country to properly respond to, and prevent, allegations of child sexual abuse. Rather than act in public interest and transparently document and name allegations of abuse and abuser, the church elected to quietly remove most disgraced clergy and leave the monitoring of these potential predators, as they are reintroduced into society, to citizen watchdog groups and nonprofits.

If you or someone you love has been a victim of clergy abuse at any point in the past, there may be help available to you. As an attorney for survivors of child sex abuse, Paul Mones has assisted hundreds in seeking justice from large institutions that harbor sexual predators, such as the Roman Catholic Church.