Catholic sexual abuse crisis shows signs of fading

Catholic sexual abuse crisis shows signs of fading


The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is starting to move out of crisis mode five years after the sex-abuse scandal broke, according to an Associated Press report.

"I think the crisis mode is over, and I think that's a good thing," Robert Bennett, a Washington lawyer told the AP. Bennett is a former member of the National Review Board, which was formed by the U.S. bishops in 2002 to deal with the scandal.

While dioceses continue to receive and settle claims of sex abuse by priests, there are signs to support the claim that the crisis is fading.

The AP report notes that number of clergy sex abuse claims received by Catholic bishops and religious orders in the U.S. declined in 2006. This is the second consecutive year of decline. Furthermore, the new claims involve mostly decades-old events.

It also notes that donations to diocesan annual appeals fell slightly as the scandal spread, then jumped 13 percent in 2006, including in Boston, where the scandal first broke.

In addition, a survey conducted in October 2005 found 74 percent of Catholics were either "somewhat" or "very" satisfied with U.S. bishops' leadership, up from 57 percent in January 2003.

Furthermore, while the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) continues to press for reforms in the Roman Catholic Church, it faces a budget deficit and declining membership. To help stem the declines, it has expanded its lobbying efforts to deal with such issues in other churches as well.

"People had predicted early on the credibility of the bishops would be wounded forever," Fr. James Heft, director of the Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, told the AP. “There is a way in which things move on. In general, I think people are willing to believe there have been positive steps taken, and life moves on to other issues."

Robert George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, said U.S. Catholics have generally been able to separate the failures of Church leaders from Church teachings. Some thought that the crisis would lead Catholics to reject the Church, but George notes that didn't happen.