In 2004-FEB, CNN was able to view a draft copy of a survey prepared by the church. It reveals that 4,450 of the 110,000 Roman Catholic clergy (4%) who served between 1950 and 2002 have been accused of molesting minors. This has resulted in 11,000 individual abuse claims filed against Catholic clergy during that interval. More details
In 2005-FEB, Dr. Kathleen McChesney of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said that the crisis is not yet over because thousands of victims across the country are still reporting the abuse. She said:
About the Roman Catholic Church and its cover ups of abuse:
Some investigators have been reporting for decades that many dioceses within the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. have been routinely covering up sexual abuse by its ephebophile 2 and pedophile 3 priests.
On policy matters, the Church has been quite decentralized; each bishop establishes his diocese's own methods of handling this problem. This changed in 2002 when the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops developed a unified policy, had it approved by the Vatican, and implemented it.
Many dioceses had found it expedient in the past to pay off the victims and their families with hush money. Generally, a confidentiality agreement was a standard part of these settlements. 5 Perhaps because of the church's tradition of forgiveness and perhaps out of an unrealistic belief in the effectiveness of therapy, the dioceses often routed abusive priests through residential treatment centers, and later reassigned them to a different parish. Unfortunately, this often resulted in a whole new group of children being abused.
The Seattle Archdiocese broke new ground under then-Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen in the late 1980's. They created a new sex-abuse policy which involved the creation of semi-independent review panels composed of both Catholics and non-Catholics. The panels have included therapists, attorneys, prosecutors, church-law experts, and priests. It is headed by a bishop. They hear from accusers, review psychological evaluations of the alleged abusers, and listen to testimony from counselors. The panel makes recommendations to the Archbishop which may include having the priest defrocked or ordering him to undergo psychological treatment. According to author Jason Berry, "Hunthausen was really the first archbishop to deal with this problem publicly. The fact that Hunthausen spoke out and was so forthright — you cannot underestimate a statement like that." Berry added that certain aspects of the policy were "pioneering" efforts at the time. These included reaching out to victims, and making sure that perpetrators weren't shuffled from parish to parish. 6,7
Although many books on clergy abuse were written during the 1990's, it wasn't until allegations surfaced of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the Boston, MA area during 2002-JAN that a moral panic materialized among the public. It has since spread across the U.S. During the first half of 2002, about 300 of the 46,000 priests currently serving in the U.S. were relieved of duty over abuse allegations. 8 This represents about 0.65% of the total population of priests. Allegations of new instances of child and youth sexual abuse appear frequently in the media. Hundreds of priests and at least one bishop of the Roman Catholic Church in the U.S. have been accused.
After a 16 month investigation, the Massachusetts Attorney General's office issued a 76 page report in late 2003-JUL which concluded that Roman Catholic priests and other workers in the Boston Archdiocese probably molested more than 1,000 people over six decades. Attorney General Tom Reilly blamed church leaders for the abuse. He said:
No church leaders could be charged, because the state's incredibly weak statute of limitations laws for child abuse crimes made this impossible. 9
How common is the abuse?
In moral panics, as in wars, truth is often the first victim. There is massive speculation about the scope of the abuse. But there is also an almost complete lack of reliable data. Much heat is being generated, and very little light. Some claim that sexual abuse by priests is quite common; others claim that:
Two widely circulated estimates suggest that approximately 2% to 6% of Roman Catholic priests abuse children and youths. This compares with other common estimates: that perhaps 1% of all adults and 2% of all adult males are abusive pedophiles. However, priests have freer access to many children than does the average male. His position of authority and trust can facilitate abuse. Thus the number of abused young people per abusive priest may well be larger than for the average molester. William Reid has written that "careful studies have indicated...that child molesters commit an average of sixty offenses for every incident that comes to public attention." 11 But Thomas Fox estimated that the "average pedophile priest abuses 285 victims." 12
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