Wednesday, April 11, 2012

USCCB Releases Results of New Abuse Audit: Credible Allegations Up by 15% in 2011

Yesterday, the USCCB issued the annual (self-) audit of abuse cases in the Catholic church in the U.S.  The news is not encouraging.  As Andrew Stern reports in the Chicago Tribune, the number of credible allegations of abuse by priests rose by 15% last year, and the church spent $144 million to deal with the scandal.

At the SNAP website, Barbara Dorris responds to the audit, which the USCCB has issued with fanfare arguing that the abuse situation is now largely a thing of the past, by noting, 

It’s ironic that bishops pat themselves on the back now when for the first time ever, two top Catholic officials (in Philadelphia and Kansas City) face criminal charges for ignoring, concealing and enabling heinous child sex crimes. Those horrific cases prove that, when it comes to kids’ safety, little in church hierarchy has changed.

On behalf of SNAP Wisconsin, Peter Isely writes,

In fact, the total number of newly accused clerics in the US for child sex abuse last year was virtually identical to the total number of newly ordained diocesan priests. The 275 newly ordained diocesan priests in the US outnumbered the number of newly accused child sex offender priests by only five. And, for every one or two priests ordained last year in the US, another priest was taken out of ministry for having sexually assaulted a child. 

The Bishop Accountability website also has a very valuable breakdown of the figures year by year (but, as the report notes, the USCCB has never issued any figures for the critical year 2003 when the scandal had just broken wide open).  Bishop Accountability's careful analysis makes the following critically important point: 

The 6,115 priests who are now counted by the U.S. bishops as accused comprise 5.6% of the 109,694 priests in ministry 1950-2002. Yet as recently as November 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, stated in an interview: "In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1% of priests are guilty of acts of this type."

And that point is followed by this one:

In U.S. dioceses where there is something like full disclosure, the percentage of accused priests is approaching 10 percent (see examples). If 10 percent of priests nationwide are ultimately accused of abuse, the total would rise to 10,969 accused priests. 

It appears that it's not over.  Not by a long shot.  Though whether we have all the information at our fingertips or will ever have all the information at our fingertips: that's far less certain.

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