How to Catch a Catholic Priest

7 min readMar 12, 2023

Anyone can be found

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In my work as a researcher looking into matters of historical child sexual abuse, I’m often called upon to ‘find’ a person accused of sexually assaulting a child, an event which may have occurred many years in the past.

But let me first define the terms I’m using and the scope of the operations. To be clear, this is not law enforcement, nor is it – strictly speaking – private investigation, although it contains a very small sense of the former and a much larger portion of the latter. I just use the term ‘researcher’, which frightens people less either way. However it is, the professional term for it is ‘skip tracing’: finding someone who doesn’t want to be found.

Image: Grant Whitty, Unsplash

Believe me when I say that many are the people who do not wish to be found, and when it comes to historical sex predators the urgent need to avoid accountability increases by a significant factor, to put it mildly. In the case of Catholic clergy, the matter becomes more complicated still. Aided and abetted by a global criminal conspiracy of truly astounding and sinister proportions, an already difficult task becomes harder still. But it is by no means impossible.

Image: Tingey Injury Law Firm, Unsplash

I’ll go into more detail about how that can be achieved shortly, but it’s important to remember that, in matters of civil law, such as this, the primary goal may not be to ‘catch’ the perpetrator as such, but to find a target for litigation – which is to say, someone the lawyers can sue for the personal injury done to their client. Invariably, and particularly when it comes to Catholic priests, there may be little chance of finding the perpetrator, let alone having them arrested.

For instance, if the offence took place in, say, 1980 and the perpetrator was thought to be in his 60s at the time, then a) he’s most likely dead, b) priests…