Bishop W. Shawn McKnight of Jefferson City commented that "it is my sincere hope the report assists the Catholic Church in Missouri in achieving our goals of accountability and transparency, while respecting the legal standards for privacy of all affected by the report."
"I will take into consideration the recommendations from the report on how we can improve our efforts to keep our children safe and in healthy environments," he added.
Schmitt's investigation was begun last year by his predecessor, Josh Hawley.
His office reviewed the personnel records of priests serving in the state's four dioceses dating back to 1945, and spoke to abuse victims or their families who contacted the office.
The investigation found credible allegations of 163 instances of sexual abuse or misconduct by diocesan clerics against minors. The offenses range from boundary violations, such as inappropriate discussion or correspondence, to forcible rape.
Of the credibly accused, 83 are dead. Of the remaining 80, 46 are past the statue of limitations for prosecution, 16 have already been referred for prosecution, 12 will be referred for prosecution, five have been or are being investigated by prosecutors, and one is still under investigation by the Church.
The instances of misconduct "overwhelmingly" occurred before 2002, the report notes, and since that year the dioceses in Missouri "have implemented a series of reforms that have improved their response to, and reporting of, abuse."
It added, however, "that since 2002, the church has, on occasion, failed to meet even its own internal procedures on abuse reporting andreporting to law enforcement," citing Bishop Robert Finn's failure for five months to report possession of child pornography by one of his priests. Finn resigned from office in 2015.
The report said that since 2002 "the church has generally taken a much more pastoral approach to engaging with victims and has, in most instances, promptly reported suspected abuse."
The attorney general's office identified what it called "certain internal and systematic failures of the dioceses," saying first that "there is no independent oversight of a bishop's day-to-day implementation of church protocols. Bishops report to no one below the Pope in the hierarchy of the church and, while uncoordinated and sometimes overlapping networks of associations and working groups exist throughout the states, regions and country, there is simply no single source of outside oversight over each bishop and no means by which best practices are effectively implemented."
It asserted that "the lack of independent oversight of the bishops' implementation of protocols, as well as the lack of independent review of allegations against bishops themselves, remain significant impediments to reform and improved protections."
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