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Sex Abuse Database Ready In 2005

A lawyer has compiled a list of 2,600 Roman Catholic priests nationwide who have been accused of sexual misconduct against children and plans to post it online by early next year.

Sylvia Demarest, a Dallas lawyer, and her staff spent 11 years on the list, which a victims' rights advocate says may encourage those who were abused to come forward.

"This is just a huge public service," said David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "I'm thrilled it will be in good hands and will be accessible, and won't sit idly on a shelf."

He said those with questions about backgrounds of individual priests can use the list for research.

Demarest said the database of alleged "priest perpetrators" and other Catholic officials who have been accused of sexually abusing children was assembled from public sources, such as court filings and media reports. The entries will list names of those accused and the time, place and nature of the alleged misconduct as well as whether a lawsuit or criminal charges resulted.

It is believed to be the only database of national scope that identifies individual priests. Demarest said she started working on it in 1993 while representing clients molested by a Dallas priest.

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the church has no national database.

"There is a difference of opinion among the bishops as to whether one should be maintained at the national level. That has not been resolved," said Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.