Looking Up Catholic Priests Accused of Sexual Abuse
In recent years, information has emerged that details the history of abuse committed by Catholic priests against children and other parishioners. While painful, every new revelation serves to bring Church wrongdoing to light, exposing how Church institutions have often protected abuser-priests at the expense of traumatized children and families.
Now, what started out as a trickle of information about individual priests has grown into a deluge of accounts of the abuse that clerics in parishes across the country have perpetrated against the most vulnerable of victims. Keeping track of which clergy members have been credibly accused, and the outcomes of investigations and prosecutions requires significant effort. Fortunately for survivors of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests, a non-profit organization called Bishop Accountability has collected and archived lists of priests, bishops, and other clerics who have had credible allegations directed toward them.
The Scope of the Lists and Where to Find Them
Bishop Accountability’s website maintains comprehensive and continuously-updated lists of the thousands of priests and clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse, dating back decades. The site collects names and pictures of clerics, summaries of allegations and their outcomes, and survivor accounts of abuse, relating to dioceses across the U.S., even for individual parishes within each diocese. A person seeking information about priests in a particular parish can use the site’s interactive map to focus on specific locations. The site also makes similar information available about credibly-accused clerics in countries around the world.
Why the Lists Are so Important
To a first-time visitor, the lists on Bishop Accountability’s website can feel overwhelming. They contain so much information (much of it disturbing), that it can be difficult to take it all in.
In one sense, that is the point of these lists. For decades, parishioners and clergy sensed, and perhaps knew about, problems within the church relating to sexual misconduct by priests. However, few people beyond Church leaders had access to sufficient information about those problems to assess their scope and scale. By publishing information collected from survivors, news stories, and court proceedings around the world, Bishop Accountability has made it difficult to ignore the breadth of the scandal of sexual abuse within the Church. Much of this information consists of primary source material. By exposing that information, Bishop Accountability also helps to ensure that it is not as easy for someone within or outside of the Church to turn a blind eye.
The lists also serve a second and equally critical purpose: to help survivors understand and come to terms with their own histories, and to assist them in seeking justice and accountability for the harm done by individual priests and the Church institutions that shielded their actions from scrutiny. While survivors know they have been abused and remember the name of the priest who committed the crime, many fear that they will fail to obtain enough information to prove what happened.
Bishop Accountability’s lists can go a long way toward remedying many instances of this problem. Survivors can access those lists to pinpoint critical information that might help them demonstrate when, how, and by whom abuse occurred, as well as who knew about it and (in many tragic cases) did little-to-nothing to make it stop.
Bishop Accountability isn’t even the only one. You can find well-documented lists and databases of pedophile priests at the following credible links:
The lists of priests accused of sexual abuse can serve two crucial purposes—they add credibility and detail to survivor’s allegations of abuse, and they can help deter the Church from backsliding into old patterns and practices that could help facilitate further abuse.
How Lawyers for Survivors Can Use the Lists
Lawyers for survivors can also use the lists. Oftentimes, the information collected and presented on Bishop Accountability’s website supplies the starting point for an attorney to build a case against a priest and/or Church institution.
In the past, attorneys for survivors of sexual abuse struggled to obtain information about priests who had been accused of sexual abuse. If the Church had moved a priest to another parish, for example, or into a new role within the Church, lawyers could encounter difficulty in learning the most basic details necessary to corroborate a survivor’s account of abuse by a particular priest at a particular parish during a particular period of time.
The lists have helped simplify this process for many cases. Today, a survivor who is ready to come forward with an allegation can meet with an attorney and possibly obtain details about similar allegations against the same priest, or about clergy within the specific parish, almost instantaneously.
This can help build trust between the lawyer and survivor and can give the attorney a valuable toehold in pursuing additional information from Church institutions. The lists of sexual abuser priests have not only promoted justice and accountability for many survivors but have helped increase the odds of accountability once a survivor is ready to step forward.
Using the Lists to Seize Opportunities for Justice and Accountability
Survivors of sexual abuse committed by priests can have a dim view of the legal justice system. In many cases, the perpetrators of abuse have escaped any sort of legal accountability for their actions. The Church may have dismissed a few priests from the clerical state (in other words, defrocked them). But in many cases, priests seemed to victimize with impunity, or simply moved on to other parishes where they continued to commit crimes against children.
Some survivors who stepped forward with allegations, seeking some kind of legal remedy for the harm done to them, may have encountered the justice system when it was more ill-prepared and seemingly unwilling to help them. Many struggled for years to come to terms with the trauma they suffered in childhood, and by the time they had the strength to tell their story, the statute of limitations had expired for prosecutors to seek criminal charges and for survivors themselves to take legal action for damages.
Bishop Accountability and Catholic Sexual Abuse
Fortunately, thanks to determined advocacy of those like Bishop Accountability, and others that exposed detailed information about sexual abuse in the Church, the legal system has begun to change to accommodate survivors and their particular legal needs. In recent years, for example, state legislatures around the country have reformed their criminal and civil statute of limitations to expand the time limits for prosecutors to charge abuser-priests criminally, and for survivors to take action for compensation against those same abusers as well as the Church institutions who enabled them.
Today, in many states, a survivor of sexual abuse committed by a priest decades ago may still have the ability to seek accountability and compensation through a court process. However, survivors may need to act quickly. In some states, the window of opportunity to seek justice for past acts of sexual abuse by priests and other clerics may soon close.
How Survivors May Benefit From Legal Action
Survivors who take legal action against abusers and Church institutions do so for a variety of reasons. Some simply want acknowledgment of what happened to them as children. Others want financial compensation for the harm they suffered. Most want to do their part to ensure that other children do not suffer abuse committed by priests.
By taking legal action in civil court, survivors have an opportunity to serve each of these goals, as well as other valid goals.
Although each lawsuit involving an allegation of sexual abuse against a priest and/or Church institution has its own unique facts and circumstances, survivors typically seek to obtain:
- Financial compensation from their abuser and the Church institution that facilitated or enabled abuse, to help support the survivor in coming to terms with the abuse and to punish the institution’s failure to prevent it. In some states, survivors may have the ability to recover enhanced financial damages when they and their lawyers can show that a Church institution covered up known abuse.
- Non-monetary remedies aimed at helping to prevent sexual abuse by clergy in the future, such as court orders directing Church institutions to implement robust sexual abuse prevention measures, and to issue periodic reports detailing those efforts. In many cases, survivors can seek these non-monetary remedies in addition to financial compensation.
These are examples of what survivors may obtain through legal action. Of course, there is no guarantee that you will secure compensation in your case. Even so, many survivors also find they achieve a measure of peace and a sense that justice has been done merely by stepping forward and telling their story and demanding to hear their voices.
Injury and Damages Caused by Sexual Abuse
Those that have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of members of the Catholic clergy often suffer greatly physically, mentally, spiritually, and economically. The damages caused by sexual abuse can be varied and extended leading to the need for proper and accurate calculation with the assistance of an attorney and experts.
The physical injuries caused by sexual abuse often include injuries associated with physical assault and battery. This means many sexual abuse survivors can suffer from bruises, cuts, and scrapes as well as more severe injuries like broken bones, damaged genitalia, and even head injuries. Sometimes survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of the catholic clergy can suffer from sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or HPV.
Damages Part of Sexual Abuse Lawsuits
Some of the most common examples of damages that are part of Florida sexual abuse lawsuits include:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of future income
- Household services
- Psychological damage
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Permanent disability
From Lists to Litigation: Steps a Lawyer May Take
Survivors understandably sometimes feel anxious about the unknown aspects of taking legal action. What does it mean to go to court to seek justice, accountability, and compensation for an act of sexual abuse?
The answer varies from case-to-case, depending on the survivor’s own priorities and needs, and on the facts of the case. However, as a general matter, an attorney for a sexual abuse survivor may:
Collect Facts From the Lists and Elsewhere
As we described above, the lists of priests accused of sexual abuse have made it less difficult for lawyers to confirm and explore basic details of the histories of abuse suffered by those victimized by certain priests. In a typical matter in this day-and-age, attorneys will turn to those lists and then, if necessary, go further to investigate particular details of a client’s account of the abuse.
This builds a factual record that can support a solid legal claim against both an individual priest (if the priest is still living) and, in many cases, against the Church institution that oversaw the priest and may have allowed the abuse to continue through its policies and practices.
Develop a Legal Strategy According to the Survivor’s Interests
Having facts in hand empowers both survivor and attorney to assess the range of options potentially available for taking legal action. No two cases are exactly alike. Every survivor’s story is unique to the survivor, and every survivor’s priorities dictate how the attorney may proceed with legal action.
A lawyer with experience in representing survivors in actions against clergy and Church institutions can assess what avenues may better serve the specific goals and reasons the survivor had in mind when making a credible allegation. In some cases, seeking a “quietly” negotiated resolution with the Church may represent the best approach. In others, taking aggressive and public action may fit the bill. In all of these cases, experienced lawyers know that the priority is to serve the survivor’s needs, and to provide sound advice to allow the survivor to decide if, when, and how to move forward.
Take the Action the Survivor Chooses
In the typical case, the lawyer and survivor only act after having gathered the facts and assessed the options. Seeking justice and accountability for sexual abuse perpetrated by a priest is often a tense and emotionally-taxing process. This is true regardless of whether this is the first allegation against a particular cleric or not. It may attract public attention. The Church may fight back. A diocese may declare bankruptcy. A lawyer in this field is more likely to understand Church institutions’ inner-workings, navigate multiple legal settings, and draw on experience and resources to help advocate for a survivor in and out of the courtroom.
What to Do if You See a Name on the List That You Recognize
The lists of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse have given survivors newfound opportunities to confront abuse they have long carried with them. By seeing the name of an abuser priest on Bishop Accountability, a survivor can feel affirmed and empowered, but also traumatized and shaken.
If you see the name of a priest or cleric who abused you on a list of credibly accused clergy, then you may have legal rights to compensation and/or other non-monetary relief that could help deter future abuse. Do not delay in learning about those rights. Contact a clergy sexual abuse injury attorney right away for a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. To schedule a consultation with Dolman Law Group about your case call our Clearwater office at 727-451-6900.