First report on Church abuse to be released tomorrow

The first of two reports on the state of sexual abuse in the U.S. Church will be released in Washington Tuesday. The second will be released Feb. 27.

The focus of the first report will be on how well the 195 U.S. Roman Catholic dioceses have implemented the mandatory discipline plan for sexually abusive priests, which was adopted in June 2002.

The second, more detailed report will reveal how many abuse cases the Church has faced since 1950 and how it has dealt with them, including the amount of money spent on settlements and treatment. It will also offer a preliminary analysis of the "causes and contexts" of the scandals, reported the Associated Press.

The bishops commissioned the Gavin Group, a Boston consulting firm led by former FBI official Bill Gavin, to conduct the national review as part of the new sexual-abuse policy they adopted at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in June 2002.

In speaking with a group of religion writers last September, the USCCB president Bishop Wilton Gregory underlined that such a review was the first of its kind in any profession and urged the press to view and place the findings in perspective and avoid sensationalist coverage.

"I can find only minimal attempts on the part of the media to discover the extent of the problem outside the Catholic priesthood,” he said. "If society has any hope of eliminating this terrible exploitation of our youth," he also said, "then we also have to face up to this scourge as it exists in the family, in school systems, and in all forms of professional and volunteer work with young people."

Auditors for the Gavin Group visited dioceses in small teams, interviewing bishops, diocesan personnel, victims, abusive priests, prosecutors and lay people. They also required dioceses to fix problems and to act on certain recommendations by a given date.

Kathleen McChesney, a former top FBI agent and head of the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, said Jan. 2 that auditors did find "a few" abusive priests still in ministry, but they were removed as soon as the breach was discovered.

She also said the first report shows that most dioceses are complying with the new plan, but "there is still a lot that needs to be done," reported the AP.

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