Jan. 11, 2019
Best of the States
AP Exclusive: Documenting the US surge in identifying molester Catholic priests
In the months after a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report on sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests, scattered dioceses across the country started putting out their own lists of molester priests. Some state and local authorities also announced they would investigate the church.
News outlets began reporting the varied efforts piecemeal. But no one was capturing the big picture – including the sudden urgency being shown by the church to open its books on past abuse.
Reporter Claudia Lauer in the Philadelphia bureau set out to fix that. Starting in November, she began systematically documenting every investigation taking place around the country and every instance of a diocese naming abusive priests in the wake of the Pennsylvania report.
With the number of US dioceses totaling 187, it was a time-consuming task. But that work paid off with her Jan. 3 exclusive. Lauer tallied more than 1,000 names publicized by 50 or so dioceses and established that over 50 more dioceses were committed to naming names. She also identified nearly 20 outside investigations taking place across the country, both criminal and civil.
The story won phenomenal play online and in print and generated huge interest on social media. Some Catholic publications used her story to provide an update on developments in the church.
For her painstaking and dogged work to document what has been happening in the church nationally in the wake of the Pennsylvania report, Lauer wins this week’s Best of the States.