About a month ago, Ruth Graham of Slate wrote a really incredible piece about the disgraced former Catholic Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. Having been credibly accused of sexual misconduct, he was the highest profile Catholic leader to resign from his post. He soon took up residency in a small friary in Victoria, Kansas… near an elementary school.
For the most part, he’s just a hermit. But his story raises a major concern: In the past several year, many Catholic leaders have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. The statutes of limitations may have expired, so they haven’t been convicted of any wrongdoing. That means they won’t be spending any time in jail. The Catholic Church, however, wants nothing to do with them.
So where do they go?
According to a bombshell report by Claudia Lauer and Meghan Hoyer of the Associated Press, roughly 1,700 of those accused priests are basically back on the streets with little or no oversight.
And whatever you think might happen has totally happened.
These priests, deacons, monks and lay people now teach middle-school math. They counsel survivors of sexual assault. They work as nurses and volunteer at nonprofits aimed at helping at-risk kids. They live next to playgrounds and day care centers. They foster and care for children.
And in their time since leaving the church, dozens have committed crimes, including sexual assault and possessing child pornography, the AP’s analysis found.
That effort unearthed hundreds of these priests who, largely unwatched by church and civil authorities, chose careers that put them in new positions of trust and authority, including jobs in which they dealt with children and survivors of sexual abuse.
The AP says Catholic dioceses have released roughly 5,100 names of accused clergy members, most in the past year. About 2,000 are still alive. About 500 currently live near schools or daycares or other facilities for children. 91 of them received licenses to work with kids as school administrators or counselors.
And all of that is what they could confirm. Many people couldn’t be tracked at all.
The AP looked into what they were up to, which is how this article came to be, but most people in the former priests’ communities would never do that — or even think to do that. Why Google the name of a nice stranger without reason? Because of that unintentional ignorance, people might never even know they were in the vicinity of former clergymen, much less ones who were accused of wrongdoing.
The Catholic Church has unleashed a disease that’s worse than Catholic dogma.
(Image via Shutterstock)