National News

U.S. Bishops Continue Vigilance on Sex Abuse

WASHINGTON (CNS) – The U.S. Catholic Church spent a total of $150.7 million on child protection efforts and to address allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors in dioceses and religious orders between July 2013 and June 2014.

The total includes about $31.7 million for safe environment training programs, background checks and other protective efforts, and about $119 million for settlements paid to victims, therapy for victims, attorneys’ fees and other costs related to allegations, including those reported in previous years.

The figures are among results of an annual survey conducted by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) that is part of an annual audit report on the response of the U.S. church to clergy sexual abuse.

The 12th annual report, released April 17 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, “is part of a pledge we have made to remain accountable and vigilant,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is president of the USCCB.

“The healing of victims/survivors of abuse remains our first priority. We join Pope Francis in his desire that the response of the church be pastoral and immediate,” the archbishop said in the report’s preface.

“Though our promise to protect and heal made in 2002 remains strong, we must not become complacent with what has been accomplished,” said Archbishop Kurtz.

“It is my hope and prayer that as we continue to fulfill our promise, the church will help model ways of addressing and bringing to light the darkness and evil of abuse wherever it exists,” he added.

The annual report has two parts. The first is the compliance report from StoneBridge, which conducted on-site audits of 59 dioceses and eparchies and collected data from 129 others. The Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and five Eastern Catholic dioceses, known as eparchies, refused to participate in onsite visits or the data collection.

Under canon law, dioceses and eparchies cannot be required to participate in the audit, but it is strongly recommended.

The eparchies not participating were the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle of San Diego; the Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in New York for Armenian Catholics; the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Stamford, Connecticut; the Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn; and the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark, N.J., for Syrians.

“Total participation in the audit is essential to demonstrate to the faithful the commitment of the bishops to rectify the unimaginable wrongs inflicted on our children in the past and their sincerity to do everything possible to prevent such abuse from happening again,” said Francesco C. Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees the audits.

He said “there must be 100 percent participation,” because the audit is of the “utmost importance in the protection of our children and the restoration of the bishops’ credibility.”

“While substantive progress has been made, it should not be concluded that the sexual abuse of minors is a problem of the past that has been adequately addressed,” Cesareo added.

The full audit showed that all participating dioceses and eparchies were in compliance with the requirement of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” adopted by the U.S. bishops in 2002, to provide safe environment training to children, priests, deacons, candidates for ordination, educators, employees and volunteers.

A total of 4,484,609 children (92 percent) were trained in 2014, along with 99 percent of priests (35,319), deacons (16,089) and educators (160,757) and 98 percent of volunteers (1,931,187) and candidates for ordination (6,503) and 97 percent (250,087) of other employees.

Background checks were performed on 99 percent of priests (33,308), deacons (16,006), candidates for ordination (6,568) and educators (160,273), along with 98 percent of volunteers (1,931,612) and 97 percent (256,668) of other employees.

Over 80 percent of credible allegations of abuse reported between July 2013 and June 2014 date back more than 25 years, with the majority occurring in the period from the 1960s to the 1980s.

According to responses gathered by CARA from all but one of the 195 dioceses and eparchies in the U.S., two of the 294 credible allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors made during this time occurred in 2014. The remaining credible allegations date back as early as the 1920s. According to the audit, all new cases were reported to civil authorities.