Recent allegations of clergy abuse throughout the Roman Catholic dioceses are troubling. What is even more concerning is the fact that nearly 1,700 accused priests and other credibly accused clergy members are living unsupervised in communities throughout the country. According to an Associated Press (AP) investigation, priests, monks, deacons, and other church leaders accused of sex crimes coexist with the public with little to no law enforcement oversight. They live and work near playgrounds, parks, and schools. They are teachers, foster parents, and medical providers. What is even more concerning is that since leaving the church, many have gone on to reoffend.
After intense public pressure, Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders identified more than 5,000 clergy leaders credibly accused with sex abuse acts ranging from inappropriate touching to rape. That newfound transparency uncovered a new problem: how to monitor individuals accused of clergy abuse but who were never charged or convicted. Most of these men and women left the church either involuntarily or by choice, living as private citizens, often unbeknownst to the families living around them.
The AP investigated what became of the nearly 2,000 credibly accused clergy members still living and found nearly 1,700 living and working without supervision. Others were either supervised by the church in some form or in jail. Still, others could not be located at all. Hundreds of credibly accused priests and other church leaders were found:
Without a criminal record or paper trial that a chargeable offense creates, credibly accused priests can continue to work and interact with children. One example uncovered by the AP investigation involved a man removed from a Pennsylvania parish for allegedly abusing a teen boy. Decades later he was arrested and incarcerated for molesting a disabled man in Oregon.
The AP determined only 85 of the 2,000 living credibly accused clergy members are registered as sex offenders for a variety of reasons. In some cases, they already served their sentences prior to 1990 when the registry was created. In other cases, the Roman Catholic church lobbied for lesser charges in return for guilty pleases. Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that many cases were expunged altogether once the accused church official completed probationary programs. Without the sex offender status, these men and women can live and work unsupervised, leaving them to reoffend and destroy innocent lives in the process.
While we have come a long way in talking about clergy abuse and identifying priests and other credibly accused church officials, more needs to be done to hold them accountable to prevent them from reoffending. If you are a survivor of clergy abuse, the Trenton clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar can help. We use every legal means available to advocate for your rights and hold predators accountable. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 856-470-9777 or 215-557-0099, or contact us online. With offices in Haddonfield, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and nationwide.