Report: U.S. Church’s abuse costs in 2007 nearly half a billion dollars

Report: U.S. Church’s abuse costs in 2007 nearly half a billion dollars

NRB Report Cover
NRB Report Cover

.- A new report on the ongoing response to the sexual abuse crisis in the United States Catholic Church shows that, while only five credible accusations of abuse were made against diocesan clergy in 2007, that year’s expenses for past and present abuse allegations approached half a billion dollars.

Released on March 7, the “2007 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” examined new allegations of abuse, diocesan and eparchial compliance with child protection measures, and the financial costs related to sexual abuse allegations.  

The report was produced by the National Review Board, which is chaired by Judge Michael Merz.  The report evaluated dioceses’ and eparchies’ compliance with the bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”  It included audit results of 190 of 195 dioceses and eparchies in the United States, in addition to results from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), based at Georgetown University.

According to the charter implementation report, costs related to abuse allegations for all dioceses and eparchies in 2007 totaled more than $498 million, an increase of more than $165 million over 2006.  

By contrast, abuse allegation-related costs in 2005 totaled over $386 million, while 2004 costs exceeded $93 milion.

About 87 percent of the 2007 costs, $420 million, went to victims’ settlements, while attorneys’ fees constituted another 11 percent.  Three percent of the costs were spent on support for offenders, including therapy, legal expenses, and living expenses.

Only about $171 million of allegation-related costs were covered by insurance.

The CARA survey, to which 194 of 195 dioceses responded, found five credible accusations of abuse of minors that happened in 2007.  In 2007 more accusations of abuse that allegedly happened in previous years also surfaced, with 689 victims making 691 allegations against 491 offenders.  

According to the 2007 Annual Report, about 82 percent of the alleged victims were male.  More than half were between the ages of 10 and 14 when the abuse began, while about 21 percent were between the ages of 15 and 17.  Eighty-six alleged victims, about 14 percent, were younger than ten years old.

The age for about ten percent of the alleged victims could not be determined.

Most incidents of alleged abuse took place decades ago.  Fifty-nine percent of alleged abuses occurred or began between 1960 and 1979.  

Of the 415 diocesan and eparchian priests and deacons identified as alleged offenders in 2007, about 62 percent had already been identified in prior allegations.  In the 2006 report, 57 percent had been identified in prior allegations.

Around 78 percent of alleged offenders are already deceased or removed from ministry.  Another 24 priests or deacons, about six percent, were identified and permanently removed from ministry in 2007.  Another 51 priests or deacons accused of abuse in previous years were permanently removed in 2007.  Fourteen accused priests or deacons have returned to ministry, while 29 are active in ministry pending the completion of an investigation.

More than 96 percent of people required to take part in safe environment training did so, while 97.8 percent of those required to undergo background checks did so.  The high numbers of individuals involved and the turnover in parish membership hindered total compliance.

According to the 2007 Annual Report, almost all United States dioceses and eparchies are considered compliant with the U.S. bishops’ charter written to protect children and young people from sexual abuse.  The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska and four Eastern Rite eparchies did not take part in the audit, while only the Diocese of Lincoln did not participate in the CARA survey.

The National Review Board recommended that the auditing process be simplified.  It also suggested “all action possible” should be taken to conduct background examinations of international priests, and to review with such priests legal standards defining sexual abuse and diocesan standards of conduct.

The NRB also urged contributions to the Causes and Context Study, estimated to cost $2.6 million.  Another $1 million is needed to fund a study being undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

The NRB’s full report is available at