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Annual audit shows decline in sexual abuse reports

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

WASHINGTON — Reported cases of child sexual abuse in U.S. dioceses and religious institutes declined between the 2008 and 2009 audits to evaluate how church institutions are complying with the U.S. bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

The 2009 annual report also showed that costs to dioceses and religious orders for lawsuits and other allegation-related expenses also decreased. In addition, it reported on how dioceses and religious orders are complying with provisions calling for education about sexual abuse for children and all who work with them, and for handling all allegations of sexual abuse, among other obligations included in the charter.

According to the 2009 report released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops March 23, a total of 513 victims came forward with 513 credible allegations against 346 people who were under the authority of dioceses or religious orders. That represents a decline from 2008 in all three figures of between 33 and 36 percent. The vast majority of those allegations related to incidents dating back decades, the report said.

Reported AbusersThe U.S. bishops adopted the charter in response to a wave of reports of sexual abuse of minors involving church personnel and criticism of how the church had handled allegations of abuse in the past.

In 2004 the combined number of reported allegations of abuse for religious orders and dioceses was 1,092 allegations against 756 people by 1,083 victims, figures which have generally declined each year since then.

Data collected by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University found 398 new credible allegations of abuse were reported by dioceses and eparchies in 2009; the allegations were made by 398 victims against 286 individuals. In reports from religious orders, there were 115 people who made 115 allegations involving 60 priests or brothers.

Among the allegations reported by dioceses, six involved children who were under the age of 18 in 2009. The remaining 392 cases involved adults who alleged they were abused when they were minors. Among religious orders, none of the new allegations involved people who were under 18 in 2009.

Costs to dioceses and religious orders declined by a total of $316 million, with the vast majority of that from a $310 million decrease in the amount paid out in legal settlements between 2008 and 2009. Religious institutes reported a $44 million overall drop in costs, including $42 million less in legal settlements. Dioceses and eparchies paid out $272 million less than in the previous year, including $269 million less for settlements.

As in previous years, a few dioceses and eparchies declined to be audited. They included: the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and the eparchies of St. Peter the Apostle in El Cajon, Calif., for Chaldeans; Newton for Melkites in Massachusetts, Our Lady of Nareg in New York for Armenian Catholics in the U.S. and Canada; St. Josaphat of Parma, Ohio, for Ukrainians; and Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark, N.J., for Syriac Catholics. The report said they declined for “various reasons.”

On most provisions of the charter, only a few dioceses were cited during the year for failing to comply with aspects of the procedures it sets out. In nearly all cases, the report said, those problems were corrected by the time the annual report was completed.

In one case the report described as noncompliance, the Diocese of Baker, Ore., does not provide the charter-mandated safe environment training for children and youths.

It noted that Baker Bishop Robert F. Vasa “feels it’s inappropriate to provide any type of sex education to any prepubescent child.” Training is being prepared for parents, the audit said, and the program is expected to be in place for the next audit period.

A majority of the Catholic children in the diocese attend public schools, where they receive state-mandated safe environment training, the report said.

The Baker diocese did not participate in last year’s audit.

Data for the survey of allegations and costs was collected by CARA between December 2009 and February 2010. CARA received responses from 193 of the 195 dioceses and eparchies and from 159 of the 219 religious institutes. — CNS

The picture in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati

ARCHDIOCESE — The Archdiocese of Cincinnati continues to act on accusations of child sexual abuse by priests as they are received.

In 2009 three new allegations of sexual abuse of a minor were made against three priests of the archdiocese. One of the priests was previously accused. He is permanently removed from ministry.
 
The other two priests have not been previously accused. Both are deceased.
 
The archdiocese spent about $535,300 in 2009 on expenses related to child abuse by priests. As with earlier such expenditures, the money came from general untargeted revenues available, not from the parish weekly collection basket, not from the Catholic Ministries Appeal and not from any other designated collection.

Approximately $430,000 was spent in 2009 on child protection efforts such as training and criminal background checks. Since 1993, more than 85,000 clergy, employees and volunteers have been trained in the provisions of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati’s Decree on Child Protection. Since 2003, more than 68,000 adults have had criminal background checks performed, including 52,400 currently working with children.
 
Cincinnati Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr urges anyone who was abused as a child by a priest or any other representative of the archdiocese, or knows someone who was, to report the abuse immediately to the secular legal authorities and to the Victim Assistance Coordinator of the Archdiocese, Sister Mary Garke, at 513-421-3131 or 1-800-686-2724.

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