Historically, churches have been known as places of safety and sanctuary. When the Boston Globe exposed a widespread sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in 2002, that impression of safety and sanctuary began to shift. Between 2001 and 2010, the Holy See—the central governing unit of the Catholic Church—investigated sex abuse allegations involving 3,000 priests and dating back half a century. In 2004, a study conducted by the John Jay Report tabulated more than 11,000 allegations in the United States against 4,392 priests.
These numbers and the scandal at the root of them exposed the need for greater oversight in churches and religious organizations. They are part of the reason background checks have become more common in these organizations since. This white paper will look at the rise of background checks in churches and religious organizations and why these vetting measures are so important.