The core of the library at BishopAccountability.org and online holdings is a remarkable collection of tens of thousands of diocesan and religious order documents. Hundreds of thousands of secret church documents have been obtained in criminal investigations of sexual abuse and document production in civil suits, mostly in the United States, but also in Canada, Ireland, England, France, Belgium, and other countries. Most of the documents pertaining to sexual abuse have been found in the secret archives files of accused priests. These files are maintained by dioceses and provinces of religious orders worldwide as directed by the Code of Canon Law.
The archives were made public in connection with sexual abuse complaints – after criminal investigations or document discovery in litigation. But the significance of the archives transcends the legal proceedings from which they emerged, and the often protracted battles to unseal some of the files. After the court orders and the settlements, a treasure trove of documents is now in the public domain. But the archives are scattered in courthouses from Maine to California – our goal is to gather them all and make them more easily accessible to the public.