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Activists To Put Database of Accused Priests Online

Nov 12, 2002 | AP

Roman Catholic activists have compiled an Internet database listing at least 600 U.S. priests who have faced public accusations of child sex abuse since 1996.

The list, assembled by 10 Boston-area Catholics operating as a group called Survivors First, is drawn from U.S. newspaper articles and, in some cases, court documents. The group planned to release the material today.

Paul Baier, a software entrepreneur who led the project, said the effort has been "incredibly cautious" about choosing the priests it would name. Baier's group has allegations from victims against 2,100 clerics in its files, but is only naming those identified in public reports, he said.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, meeting this week to approve a sex abuse policy for the American church, has not undertaken a complete count of molestation cases since victims began going public in 1985.

Baier said people often exaggerate the abuse problem.

The total number of accused clerics in the Survivors First database should be compared with the 90,000 priests of the past generation, not the 46,000 currently serving, he said. Using the figure of 2,100 priests with claims against them, that means about 2.3 percent of priests have been accused of abuse, he said. The Web site will also have a listing of false charges made against clergy.

For accused priests, the list will provide information on each cleric's city and diocese, and the status or outcome of any criminal or civil cases, Baier said. There will be five categories: priests convicted of crimes, civil settlements in which criminal guilt was not admitted, pending criminal cases, pending civil cases and other situations.

In a few cases, priests' names will be deleted for legal reasons, Baier said, with a referral to a newspaper article or court docket number. But Survivors First has been advised by lawyers that compiling public information is perfectly legal.

Tracking the abuse crisis just this year, The Associated Press has found at least 325 priests have been removed or resigned from their posts because of abuse allegations.

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