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By Michelle Boorstein
The country’s biggest advocacy groups for victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse released a study today contending that more than half of Chicago’s Catholic parishes have been served by a priest accused of sexually abusing children.
The study, released today by a coalition including Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Voice of the Faithful and BishopAccountability.org also says accused priests were not randomly spread across the city’s parishes but were assigned only in about half of Chicago’s zip codes.
The Chicago Tribune did a short piece on this today and quoted an archdiocesan spokeswoman as calling the report’s conclusions “questionable.” Colleen Dolan noted that the accused priests have since been removed.
We know from our own efforts to properly track the cases of accused priests that hard data is lacking. The church decides who is “credibly accused” and doesn’t release the full list of people in that category. For this new study, the groups appears to have used not only the priests considered credibly accused by the church, but other names that came from lawsuits and other public sources.
The whole subject of which names belong on these lists is complicated on both sides; innocent men who are accused have little recourse to clear their names, especially if the church calls the allegations credible. Victims have no legal right to information on how the church handled their perpetrators.
The church has made enormous changes and progress in the past decade in dealing with the subject of clergy sex abuse, but the lack of full public accountability won’t likely be going away any time soon.