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Child and youth sexual abuse by clergy

Child & youth sexual abuse in the
Roman Catholic Church, 2005 - 2007

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Information about the victims and perpetrators:

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted a study of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy. It was commissioned by U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The College released their report in late 2004-FEB. 1 Among their findings were the following data:

bullet 11,000 allegations of sexual abuse of children had been made between 1950 and 2002; 61% were substantiated; 9% were unsubstantiated; 30% were not investigated because the alleged perpetrator had died.
bullet 4,450 clergy (4%) out of the total 110,000 who served during the interval are alleged to have sexually abused children (persons under the age of 18).
bullet 78% of the alleged victims were post-pubertal (11 to 17 years of age). 1,2
bullet More information.

Unfortunately, the full scope of the abuse will never be known. According to the OC Weekly, many dioceses destroyed or withheld personnel files. This allegedly included the dioceses of:

bullet Cleveland, OH
bullet Dallas, TX
bullet Fairbanks, Alaska,
bullet Manchester, NH
bullet Oakland, CA
bullet Springfield, MA
bullet Tucson, AZ
bullet Worcester, MA. 3

Large settlements:

As of mid-2005, there are 195 Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. They had paid a total of over $1.5 billion dollars in settlements since 1950. 4 According to

"The Rev. Thomas Doyle, who left a promising career with the church to help represent victims, had warned the bishops in 1985 that abuse costs could eventually exceed $1 billion. He said: "Nobody believed us. I remember one archbishop telling me, 'My feeling about this, Tom, is no one's ever going to sue the Catholic Church'." 5

David Castaldi, chairperson of the Catholic lay reform group Voice of the Faithful has predicted that the total cost of the sexual abuse scandal could eventually total three billion dollars. At the group's national meeting in 2005-JUL, he noted that the Diocese of Portland, OR, faces claims in excess of a half billion; the Archdiocese of Los Angeles alone may pay out as much as $1.5 billion. 6

The four largest settlements to date are described below, in chronological order:

bullet Boston, MA: The scandal surfaced in Boston during 2002-JAN when court documents revealed that church leaders moved Rev. John Geoghan from parish to parish in spite of evidence that he had molested children. This incident triggered an awareness of sexual abuse by clergy across the country. in 2002-DEC, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop of the diocese. A report issued in 2003-JUL indicated that more than 1,000 children had probably been molested by over 235 priests from 1940 to 2000. In 2003-SEP-09, the Boston Archdiocese agreed to compensate 552 victims who said they were abused by priests a total of $85 million. Victims received awards ranging from $80 thousand to $300 thousand, less a large percentage to pay legal fees. The diocese is the fourth largest in the U.S. It has 2.1 million parishioners. According to the Associated Press:

"Award amounts will be decided by a mediator, based on the type of molestation, the duration of the abuse, and the injury suffered. Parents who filed lawsuits claiming their children were abused will receive $20,000. The church also will provide for psychological counseling for victims for as long as they want it, and will put some victims on advisory boards monitoring the abuse problem.....The archdiocese also released a statement saying in part that it is 'committed to doing everything humanly possible to make sure that this never occurs again. Our prayer is that this may, with the help of God, become a reality'." 

Gary Bergeron, who sued for molestation by the late Rev. Joseph Birmingham said:

"This piece of paper means one thing to me and many men I represent here today. From this day forward I am not an alleged victim of clergy abuse. I am recognized, I'm a survivor." 7,8

Stephen Pope, a theology professor at Boston College, estimated that it will take a generation for the Church to recover from the scandal. He said: "The whole country has been waiting for Boston to resolve this question, waiting for Boston to set an example." 7

bullet Orange County, CA: During 2004, the diocese agreed in principle to a $100 million settlement to compensate approximately 90 victims with amounts ranging from $500 thousand to $4 million. However, attorney fees may chew up to 40% of the payments. The diocese has 1,044,191 parishioners. The settlement was officially announced on 2005-JAN-03. 9 According to the LA Times, Bishop Tod D. Brown

"...agreed to open his personnel files to the public. A judge will screen them to remove names of alleged abuse victims, and material protected by legal privileges, such as communications between lawyers and psychologists and their clients.....The diocese had a $171-million investment portfolio and $23.4 million in cash reserves at the end of the 2003 fiscal year, according to its financial statement." 10

Bishop Brown wrote in a statement:

"We are ashamed that the crime of sexual abuse took place in our church and are determined that it will not happen again. Even after these cases are settled, all our efforts to make our church a safer environment for all and to educate everyone about the horror of childhood sexual abuse in our society will continue. We owe it to those who have suffered this kind of abuse to name it for what it is and, as far as possible, make amends." 11

bullet Covington, KY: In 2005, the diocese established a $120 million fund to compensate an unknown number of victims. The diocese has only 89,000 parishioners. So far, the diocese has revealed that 205 allegations have been received against 35 of its priests -- nearly 10% of the total number of 354 priests who have worked in the diocese over the past 50 years. Sixteen of the priests have died; five have been defrocked; 14 have been permanently removed from ministry but remain priests. The maximum cost per parishioner could be as much as $1,300. Claimants will be divided into four groups, depending on the nature and severity of the abuse. Compensation for members would range from $5,000 to $450,000.

The exact number of abuse victims who will come forward in the future is unknown. The diocese is planning to collect $80 million from its insurance companies. The remaining $40 million will come from a combination of "investments and real estate." Any unused amount in the fund will revert to the diocese. Stanley Chesley, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, wrote in a statement: "This is a very important and in many ways unprecedented result in an extremely difficult matter." Bishop Roger Foys wrote in a  statement.

"After personally meeting with more than 70 victims, I am painfully aware that no amount of money can compensate for the harm these victims suffered as innocent children. Nevertheless, I pray that this settlement will bring some measure of peace and healing to victims and their loved ones." 2

bullet Los Angeles, CA: The diocese of Los Angeles -- the largest in the U.S., announced on 2006-DEC-02 that it had agreed to pay $60 million to settle 45 lawsuits that alleged sexual abuse involving 22 priests. Cardinal Roger Mahony issued a news release, saying:

"I pray that the settlement of the initial group of cases will help the victims involved to move forward with their lives and to build a brighter future for themselves and their families."

This left more than 500 lawsuits involving allegations against 200 priests still unresolved. 4 Negotiation s had made little progress for years. A recent decision by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge to allow consideration of punitive damages may have speeded the process.

Jury selection for the first of these remaining lawsuits was expected to begin on 2007-JUL-16. However news of a last-minute near-settlement was leaked on JUL-14. Details are expected to be announced on JUL-16. It allegedly involves the payment of between $600 million and $650 million to about 500 plaintiffs -- an average of 1.2 to 1.3 million each. Insurance companies, the archdiocese and several religious orders will share in the payments.

Mary Grant, regional director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said:

"No matter what happens, no resolution, guilty verdict or settlement magically takes away the pain of having been raped or molested by Catholic priests in this archdiocese." 12

Other settlements:

  • Portland, OR: In 2007-JUN, the Diocese of Portland agreed to pay about $52 million to 175 victims and reserved another $20 million for future claims.

  • Chicago, IL: The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to pay more than $12.6 million to 16 persons who accused priests of sexual abuse. Cardinal Francis George apologized for the abuse and said in a statement:

    "My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward. ... We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care."

    In an unprecedented attempt at openness, the archdiocese is making George's deposition public.

    This brings the total payments to $65 million to settle about 250 claims over the past three decades. Mediation continues in about two dozen other cases. 13

  • San Diego, CA: During 2007, the Diocese of San Diego settled with a group of 144 plaintiffs for almost $200 million. One of the clauses in the agreement was that an independent judge would review the priests' sealed personnel records and determine which ones would be made public. A retired San Diego Superior Court judge ruled on 2010-OCT-22 that nearly 10,000 pages could be released to the public. The records are from the personnel files of 48 priests who were either credibly accused, convicted of sexual abuse. or were named in a civil lawsuit. According to the Associated Press, the documents show:
    "... that the Diocese of San Diego long knew about abusive priests, some of whom were shuffled from parish to parish despite credible complaints against them. ...

    "The files show what the diocese knew about abusive priests, starting decades before any allegations became public, and that some church leaders moved priests around or overseas despite credible complaints against them."

    " 'We encourage all Catholics, all members of the community, to look for these documents,' attorney Anthony DeMarco said at a news conference. 'These documents demonstrate years and years and decades of concerted action that has allowed this community's children to be victimized, and it is not until the community looks at these documents that this cycle is ever going to be ended'." 14

The website Bishop at collects and publishes internal Roman Catholic Church papers that have been released as the result of litigation on clergy abuse nationwide.

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Sadly, this topic continues.


The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Draft survey: 4,450 priests accused of sex abuse. Bishop: 'Very sobering and important milestone',", 2004-FEB-17, at:
  2. Bruce Schreiner, "Priest-abuse settlement sets record. Covington (Ky.) Diocese creates $120 million fund to pay victims, " Indianapolis Star, 2005-JUN-04, at:
  3. Gustavo Arellano, "Shreddin'! Other Catholic diocese have destroyed incriminating priest personnel files. Why not Orange?," OC Weekly, 2005-MAR-25, at:
  4. "Sex abuse by priests costs L.A. church $60M," Associated Press, 2006-DEC-01, at:
  5. "News report: Abuse cases cost Catholic Church $1 billion," Associated Press, 2005-JUN-10, at:
  6. "Catholic Abuse Scandal," Fox News, 2005-JUL-09.
  7. "Boston Archdiocese Agrees to $85M Sex Abuse Settlement," Fox News, 2003-SEP-09, at:
  8. "Chronology of Major Events in Church Abuse Scandal," Associated Press, 2003-SEP-09, at:
  9. Gustavo Arellano, "The All-Spin Zone. Confidential memo reveals real reason Orange diocese settled sex-abuse suits," OC Weekly, 2005-JAN-14, at:
  10. Jean Guccione, "Orange Bishop to Apologize in Huge Abuse Settlement. A record-setting $100-million agreement in the Catholic Church's sex scandal also will make confidential files public," LA Times, 2005-JAN-04. Online at:
  11. "Statement of Bishop Brown regarding sex abuse settlement," Diocese of Orange, undated, at: This is a PDF file. You may require software to read it. Software can be obtained free from:
  12. "Diocese to settle sex-abuse claims for $660 million," Associated Press, 2007-JUL-24, at:
  13. "Settlements reached in Chicago clergy abuse cases ," Associated Press, 2008-AUG-13, at:
  14. "Abuse claims detailed in unsealed Ca. church docs," Associated Press, 2010-OCT-25, at:

Copyright 2005 to 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2005-JUN-05
Latest update: 2010-NPV-23
Author: B.A. Robinson

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