As the Catholic Church faces a wave of federal and state attorney general investigations into its handling of sex abuse, bishops have struggled with how to react. Some have locked down defensively. Others are waiting on guidance from the Vatican, which has instructed U.S. last month to wait on taking any collective action until the new year. Dozens of bishops have decided to take action by releasing lists of the priests in their dioceses who were credibly accused of abuse, the New York Times reports. The disclosures have trickled out week by week — 10 names in Gaylord, Mi.; 28 in Las Cruces, N.M.; 28 in Ogdensburg, N.Y.; 15 in Atlanta; 34 in San Bernardino, Ca., among many others. All 15 dioceses in Texas have agreed to release lists. “We’ve never seen this kind of outpouring before,” said Terry McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy sex abuse cases.
By his count, at least 35 dioceses have released lists or updates of previous lists since the beginning of August. That nearly doubles the number that had ever been released before, since the first one in 2002 by the Diocese of Tucson. “It’s a dramatic change in how bishops are approaching this,” McKiernan said. Many of the priests named on the lists are dead. Many had already been known as abusers, but scores of names are new, even to activists who have been closely following the church abuse scandals for years. Few of the lists provide details about the allegations themselves, including when they occurred or how many victims were affected. An explosive grand jury report released in August by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office detailied the abuse of over 1,000 people by hundreds of priests. Investigations have followed in more than a dozen states.