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National Survey of Clergy Abuse Released

"This is not a media crisis or a personnel crisis. It's the age-old question of right and wrong, good and evil"
( [email protected] ) Feb 28, 2004 10:03 AM EST

Upon the request and funding of the U.S. Catholic Bishops, the National Review Board released a comprehensive report on the extent of clergy sex abuse in the past fifty years, Feb. 27, 2004. The report revealed that a shocking 4 percent of all ordained priests in the U.S. had been accused of abuse, and that over eighty percent of the cases involved the sexual abuse of males, more than half of which were boys aged 11-14.

"The terrible history recorded here today is history," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who promised that the days of sheltering sex abusers in the Roman Catholic priesthood would end.

The survey tallying molestation claims and costs from 1950 to 2002 and a companion study explaining how the problem happened found 10,667 abuse claims against 4,392 priests, a number researchers say is a conservative count. The study also calculated abuse-related costs such as litigation and counseling at $572 million, which does not take into account the nearly $100 million spent in settlements in 2003.

"There is absolutely no excuse for what occurred in the Catholic Church," said Robert Bennett, a Washington attorney and review board member. "This is not a media crisis or a personnel crisis. It's the age-old question of right and wrong, good and evil."

In terms of the main reasons why the priests abused their members for so long, the National Review Board offered two reasons: the standard for ordination was too loose and the priests were not prepared to lead on a celibate life.

"Dioceses and orders simply did not screen candidates for the priesthood properly. As a result, we found that many dysfunctional and psychosexually immature men were admitted into seminaries and orders, ordained in priesthood," said Robert Bennett of the National Review Board.

"The heartfelt sorrow that we feel for this violation and the often ineffective ways with which it was dealt has strengthen our commitment to do everything possible to see that it does not happen again," said Bishop Gregory.

While Gregory apologized for the cases, he could not say if bishops who know

Gregory apologized to the victims but could not say if bishops who knowingly transferred accused priests would be removed.

Representatives of the Catholic group Voice of the Faithful said that is unacceptable.

"They knew there were perpetrators. They knew there were allegations among particularly notorious perpetrators, yet they allowed them to continue in service. One of the great glaring omissions in this report is the lack of focus on accountably," said James Post, of the Voice of the Faithful.

Although the two reports did not deal with issues on whether the presence of gay priests escalated the numbers of abuses, the board said it would certainly examine the issue, since 80 percent of the victims were male.