At least 271 clergy — a mix of permanent and visiting priests, pastors, chaplains, deacons, religious order clerics, and nuns — have been publicly accused of child sex abuse in the Boston archdiocese, according to a Globe review.
Accusations have led to criminal charges, lawsuits, and reviews by church officials. Priests have been convicted, sentenced to jail, and stripped of their religious duties. In some cases, they’ve been cleared by the courts and the church.
The archdiocese in 2011 published a list of accused clergy, naming a total of 159 clerics, but it declined to release the names of 91 others, most of whom were dead and, at least as of then, had not been accused publicly. The Globe later revealed that the archdiocese list excluded the names of 70 religious order clerics who had been accused.
The archdiocese’s list has now grown to 166, still without including the religious order clerics, but a spokesman for the church said this week it has not changed the policy of withholding some cleric’s names.
The Globe’s review considered not only church records, but court records, news coverage, material from attorneys, and information from BishopAccountability.org, which has closely researched and documented the clergy sex abuse crisis.
“We acknowledge the terrible crimes committed by clergy against children and the failure of many leaders within the church to deal appropriately with these crimes,” archdiocese spokesman Terrence Donilon said in a statement. “That said, the Church is committed to the protection of children while at the same time providing support to survivors and all people who have suffered as a result of clergy sexual abuse.”
He said the archdiocese has taken “aggressive steps” to bolster training and screening of priests, staff, and volunteers.
“In an effort to heal and rebuild trust, the church knows it will be judged by it actions — not just its words — and the implementation of vigorous polices that serve the entire community,” he said.
The church was first rocked by the sex abuse crisis in 2002. The scandal has since spread across the country — and the world. The Boston Globe investigative team’s role in exposing the abuse is the subject of the new movie “Spotlight.”
A year after the scandal broke, the Boston archdiocese tallied 815 victims. Now it says that about 1,000 people have stepped forward.
Nationally, more than 17,500 victims have made accusations of clergy abuse that church officials have determined to be credible, according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
Many of the allegations were made by adults reporting years-old abuse from when they were children. But other allegations have come from children reporting current abuse by clergy.
Between 2004 and 2014, more than 100 children nationwide reported sex abuse allegations that were determined by church officials to be credible, according to the bishop’s conference.
“While substantive progress has been made, it should not be concluded that the sexual abuse of minors is a problem of the past that has been adequately addressed,” said a report published by the conference in March. “There are still instances where dioceses fall short.”