16. Is there a reliable data base, available to the public, to provide the names and locations of clergy perpetrators? If not, why not?

No. Setting one up would be simple in some ways, but an independent person acting as an advocate raises all sorts of ethical questions and questions. Including the true validity of reports and how to handle hearsay. Not to speak of the legal liability.

Remember that most perpetrators have never been convicted in a court of law. If they were, and the offense was probably child abuse, then Megan’s Law would cover what is already happening, state by state, on that small minority of cases.

Finding just ways to do this, outside of the courts, raises as many ethical questions as what secrecy itself raises. It is NEVER against the law to say what one knows “in good faith,” lawyers usually tell their client. This site is not one for giving legal advice, though. Check with your lawyer if you are in doubt about trying to put a perpetrator’s name on the Web. The truth is generally a very good defense against libel, yet nothing protects you 100% from someone trying to cause you legal woe, even if they do not succeed.

The most ethical thing that church members and their leaders can do is to say what they know to anyone who asks or to anyone who is considering contact with a known perpetrator. Sometimes doing this ethical thing does involve risk, many argue. They are right in some cases.

Yet a person of character cannot usually live a carefree life by hiding the truth from others. There will be tremendous internal conflict and much more if/when one learns that others have been hurt because the courage to speak was inadequate in a previous moment.

Living an ethical life that is congruent with the highest Christian values requires that we put our own discomfort aside in many situations and take risks for the sake of others.

For more insights, please read my book How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct

Dee Ann Miller is the author of Enlarging Boston's Spotlight: A Call for Courage, Integrity, and Institutional Transformation (2017) How Little We Knew: Collusion and Confusion with Sexual Misconduct (1993) and The Truth about Malarkey (2000)