Only seven credible allegations of sexual abuse of minors in 2010 were made against Catholic priests in the U.S., a new report says. The seven accused priests make up a very small percentage of the 38,000 diocesan and religious clergy in the reporting dioceses and eparchies.
Meanwhile, over 5.1 million children and two million adults have undergone child protection training. Nearly 1.7 million church volunteers, 239,000 employees, 162,000 educators, 6,000 candidates for ordination and 14,800 deacons have been trained.
“We will continue to work to our utmost for the protection of children and youth,” Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York reaffirmed in the report’s preface. “We are committed to ensuring that those who are ordained to the priesthood and put into positions of trust will share this commitment to protecting children and youth as part of their love and commitment to Jesus Christ and his Church.”
The report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was authored by the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection for the National Review Board and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It concerned abuse allegations and child protection policy compliance in almost all Catholic dioceses and Eastern Catholic eparchies of the United States.
The report included a survey by the Georgetown University-Based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
CARA found that hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse from decades ago were reported to dioceses only last year. The number of alleged offenders increased from 286 alleged offenders reported in 2009 to 345 alleged offenders reported in 2010.
Almost 60 percent of these offenders had been identified in earlier allegations. Three quarters of them are dead or laicized.
Two third of the allegations occurred or began between 1960 and 1984, with the most common time period of alleged abuse occurring from 1970 to 1974.
In 2010, 683 abuse victims came forward to report abuse, with 653 of these abuse allegations regarding decades-old incidents.
“The Church can never forget the harm done to victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” the report said. “Healing those wounds must remain a top priority for all the Church. Our work is finished only when all victims are comforted and healed.”
Dioceses reported providing outreach to 478 victims in 2010 while another 1,868 who previously reported abuse are still receiving support.
The financial costs of sexual abuse are still considerable. Settlements paid out by diocese and eparchies in 2010 were $70.4 million, an increase of 28 percent over the previous year’s payments. At least $21 million was spent for child protection efforts including safe environment coordinators, training programs and background checks.
Over 98 percent of clergy, church employees and volunteers have had safe environment training. Background checks have been conducted for over 99 percent of clergy, 99.8 percent of educators, 98.5 percent of church employees and 99.2 percent of volunteers.
The audit “shows the Church’s noteworthy job in keeping its promise to protect and pledge to heal,” said Teresa M. Kettelkamp, executive director of the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, in an introductory letter for the report.
Two Roman Catholic dioceses and five Eastern Catholic eparchies have declined to participate in the audits.