After child abuse accusations, Catholic priests often simply vanish [Excerpts]
By Michelle Boorstein and William Wan
Washington Post Staff Writers, December 4, 2010: Ten years after the clergy sex abuse scandal first exploded in the United States, lawsuits have been settled, reports issued, policies overhauled. But even as the crisis has shifted to Europe and the Vatican prepares to issue new guidelines on how to handle sex abuse cases, something glaring is missing in this country: the accused priests.
Although the vast majority were removed from ministry long ago - barred from celebrating Mass in public, administering the sacraments, wearing their clerical collars or presenting themselves as priests - church officials say they have no way to monitor where the men are now. Nor do they keep official data on how many were defrocked, or stripped of their priestly status; how many were imprisoned or placed on sex-offender lists; how many are working; and how many are dead.
The priests have largely vanished from public view. Their fates are often a mystery to their victims, their parishioners and even their attorneys.
Independently compiling data about what happened to the men is nearly impossible. Reports by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops show that at least 5,768 priests were accused from 1950 to 2009. Although the church deems most of the allegations credible, the vast majority have never been proved, and many of the priests have never been publicly identified.
The same is true in the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Arlington, where local church officials put the tally of accused priests at 42 without naming all of them. (At least five additional men who belong to religious orders have been accused in the Washington Archdiocese.)
But a comprehensive list of names does not exist. Victims groups often disagree with church officials on who should be included and maintain their own lists.