The 2008 report of the National Review Board established to examine clerical sexual abuse in the U.S. has been released, saying that most recent claims of abuse concern alleged offenses from 35 to 40 years ago and reporting that most alleged offenders are deceased or out of the priestly ministry.
The National Review Board’s 2008 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People includes audit results of 188 of the 195 diocese and eparchies in the United States. The report also presents 2008 data collected by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) for its Annual Survey of Allegations and Costs.
According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) press release summarizing the report, U.S. dioceses altogether received ten credible allegations of clerical abuse offenses committed against a minor in 2008.
A reported 620 victims also made 625 allegations against 423 alleged offenders concerning abuse in previous years. About 60 percent of identified offenders in new allegations in 2008 had been identified in previous allegations.
Most alleged abuse incidents took place between 1970 and 1974, with 108 new allegations during that period. The report shows the number of allegations declining from 77 in 1980-1984 to 37 in 1985-1989. Each subsequent five year period records no more than 13 new allegations.
About 84 percent of alleged abuse victims were male. Slightly over half of the victims were between the ages of 10 and 14 when their alleged abuse began, while about 23 percent were under 10 years old.
The report says that nearly 83 percent of the offenders among diocesan clergy are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized or missing.
A total of 16 priests or deacons were returned to ministry in 2008 based on the resolution of an allegation made during or prior to 2008.
Dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes paid a total of $374,408,554 in sexual abuse settlements in 2008, compared to over $498 million in 2007, over $332 million in 2006, over $445 million in 2005 and over $139 million in 2004.
The National Review Board’s report says that dioceses spent more than $23 million nationwide in 2008 to prevent childhood sexual abuse, an increase of two million dollars from 2007.
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, USCCB president, said in a press release that the bishops hope that "new ways are being found to improve not only the safety of children in the care of the Church, but also the safety of all children in society."
"By our prayers, actions, and dedication to protect children, we are working to make the world safer for all young people. We and the Church are on the right path," he said.
According to the report, more than 99 percent of those who were required to participate in safe environment training programs did so.
The National Review Board, chaired by Judge Michael Merz, recommended that audits be expanded to include parishes and that contact information for victim assistance coordinators be made readily available and easily obtainable to the public. Persons responsible for implementing the bishops’ charter for child protection should also possess the necessary skills and the resources and cooperation of diocesan personnel.
Additionally, the board recommended the further examination of policies and practices concerning international priests’ background evaluations and safe environment training.
Seven dioceses and eparchies have refused to be audited, compared to five last year.
"The Board and the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People have spent much effort over the past two years supporting safe environment training by offering professionally developed suggestions for that work," Judge Merz commented. "We continue to believe that safe environment training is very important to protecting children. We hope the Conference will encourage open dialogue on any reservations bishops may have about this part of the Charter [for the Protection of Children and Young People] implementation"
The 2008 report is available for viewing at http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/annual_report2008.shtml