As increasing numbers of Catholic dioceses around the United States divulge the names of priests "credibly accused" of child sex abuse, one important question remains unanswered … where are they now? In other words, once these disgraced religious are removed from ministry what happens to them?
In many cases, the answer is … nothing.
Sadly, statutes of limitations allow many clergy removed from ministry for sexual misconduct to avoid being charged with a crime. As a result, these individuals are not registered as sex offenders and, therefore, face no restrictions on where they can reside or work, and no limitations on their access to children. In short, they could live next door to you or to me and we would never know about it.
This must change.
At minimum, when fallen priests are laicized after"credible allegations" of child sex abuse, law enforcement and school district representatives must be notified. Addresses need not be public, but those responsible for keeping our communities safe must be alerted to this potential danger.
To be clear, this protocol must apply to ALL clergy "defrocked" for offenses involving children. Recent procedures require that the accused be immediately suspended while an inquiry takes place followed, where appropriate, by a report to civil authorities. With older cases, though, laicized priests have simply dropped out of sight … and this is reprehensible.
Providing authorities with the identities and locations of disgraced clergy is not an exercise in retribution. Instead, this protocol would underscore the importance of community safety, while providing an additional safeguard against the possibility of harm to another child.
For further discussion on this issue, visit Vanishing Predators