U.S. bishops report on child abuse allegations, costs for 2011

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WASHINGTON - Although allegations of child sex abuse by U.S. priests and deacons continue to surface, the vast majority involve actions taken decades ago by clergy who have since died or been removed from ministry, according to a new report.

The 2011 survey of abuse-related allegations and costs conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University in Washington was released April 10 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

It showed that there were 594 new credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by diocesan or religious-order priests or deacons during 2011, but only 23 of the new allegations (4 percent) involved children who were under the age of 18 in 2010 or 2011. The allegations were made by 588 people against 461 clergy members.

By the end of 2011, 62 of the new credible allegations of sexual abuse had been determined to be false or unsubstantiated.

Three-quarters of the alleged offenders identified in 2011 were deceased, already removed from ministry and/or laicized or missing. Twenty-one priests or deacons named in 2011 were permanently removed from ministry that year, while another 18 priests or deacons accused before last year were permanently removed from ministry in 2011.

Four priests were returned to ministry in 2011 based on the resolution on an allegation made in 2010 or earlier, the report said.

The number of new allegations, victims and offenders each represented an increase of more than 15 percent over the previous year, but each was significantly lower than the peak years of 2004 to 2008. Two-thirds of the new allegations occurred or began between 1960 and 1984.

In a preface to the report, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, USCCB president, said it "supports the conclusion of both studies done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice - that the majority of allegations are way in the past."

But "the church must continue to be vigilant," he added. "The church must do all she can never to let abuse happen again. And we must all continue to work with full resolve toward the healing and reconciliation of the victims/survivors."

The CARA report was compiled from data supplied by 194 of the 195 U.S. dioceses or Eastern Catholic eparchies - only the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., declined to participate - and 165 of the 213 "clerical and mixed religious institutes" belonging to the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.

The report also summarized the amount spent by dioceses and religious orders on legal settlements, therapy for victims, support for offenders, attorneys' fees and other abuse-related costs.

The nearly $74 million spent on settlements in 2011 represented a 17 percent decrease from the almost $89 million spent in 2010, but the $41 million in attorneys' fees and $10 million in other costs represented increases over the previous year.

Expenses for therapy for victims (just under $7 million) and support for offenders (almost $12 million) remained steady.

In all, settlement-related spending by dioceses and religious orders went from nearly $150 million in 2010 to $144 million last year. Another $32.7 million went for child protection efforts such as background checks and safe environment training in 2011, an increase of more than $10 million over 2010.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 1970