From the newspaper headlines you may have read this week, you might have the impression that the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops issued several conflicting reports about clerical abuse.
Consider these headlines:
“Report by Catholic Church Sees Gaines on Sexual Abuse” – New York Times
“Sexual abuses reported from dioceses on decline” – Catholic Online
“Abuse claims against priests rise in 2010” -- Reuters
“Clergy abuse may be waning” – Columbus Dispatch
“Audit: Abuse claims still plague the Catholic church” – KOMO News
“Catholic bishops report seven abuse cases during 2010” – Religion News Service
“505 sex abuse allegations in 2010” – National Catholic Reporter
“Abuse audits find most dioceses in compliance, but weaknesses remain” – Catholic News Service
No, there were not several reports – just one. But depending on what factoid a journalist selects (perhaps influenced by perspective or prejudice) the report gets a different “spin.”
To set the record straight, here is part of the statement issues by the USCCB:
WASHINGTON (April 11, 2011)—Reports of current instances of sexual abuse of minors continues to decrease, with seven credible allegations against seven priests reported in 2010, according to the 2010 Survey of Allegations and Costs done by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA. At the same time diocesan audits are uncovering weaknesses in audit compliance and finding reports of boundary violations short of abuse, such as inappropriate hugging.
A credible allegation is one which has a semblance of truth to it following an initial examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation.
The survey by Georgetown University-based CARA collects numbers from the dioceses and coincides with the annual audit of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, conducted by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. The audit reviews compliance with the Charter, and is conducted by a team of independent auditors, the Gavin Group Inc. Both the survey and audit report are available on the Web at http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/annual-report-2010.pdf.
All dioceses responded to the CARA survey except the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, which has refused to participate in the compliance audits process since 2004. The U.S. bishops enacted the Charter in 2002 and have conducted national compliance audits annually since 2003.
In addition to the seven cases of abuse of minors in 2010, CARA also found hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse from decades ago that were reported to dioceses only last year. The “number of alleged offenders increased by a fifth, from 286 alleged offenders reported in 2009 to 345 alleged offenders reported in 2010,” CARA reported. Almost 60 percent of these offenders had been identified in earlier allegations and three quarters of the offenders are now dead or laicized.
CARA also noted that two thirds of these allegations (66 percent) are old and occurred or began between 1960 and 1984. The most common time period when these allegations reportedly occurred was 1970-1974.
It seems you can’t get a consistent, accurate account of the report from the news media. But you can read the report for yourself.
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