BishopAccountability.org
 
 

Collated USCCB Data
On the Number of U.S. Priests Accused of Sexually Abusing Children and the Numbers of Persons Alleging Abuse
1950–2016

Compiled by BishopAccountability.org
From reports commissioned and released by the USCCB
Updated June 30, 2017

As of May 30, 2017, information published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) indicates that the conference has counted 6,721 clerics "not implausibly" and "credibly" accused of sexually abusing minors in the period 1950 through June 30, 2016, with several gaps in the USCCB data. Out of the 116,690 priests who have worked in those years, the 6,721 priests accused of abusing children are 5.8% of the total.

This percentage is a useful corrective. As recently as November 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then in charge of all abuse cases for the Vatican, said in an interview that in the United States "less than 1% of priests are guilty of acts of this type." Meanwhile, in the few US dioceses where investigations or disclosures have provided adequate data, including Boston, we are seeing rates as high as 10 percent. If that is ultimately found to be the percentage nationally, the US total would rise to 11,669 priests accused of abuse.

As of May 30, 2017, the USCCB has counted 18,565 victims who are known to the bishops in the period 1950 through June 30, 2016. Many more survivors have yet to come forward. In 1993, the late Fr. Andrew Greeley estimated that 2,500 priests (fewer than half the USCCB's current total) might have molested "well in excess of 100,000" children in the United States.

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This webpage tabulates the fourteen USCCB reports that contain this priest and victim information (one of which cannot be included in the totals, because of a change in reporting period, as described below) and provides links to all the reports, so that readers can verify the data. Our table presenting all the data and sources is below.

In this brief introduction, we describe the significance and limitations of these numbers, explain how we derived them from the USCCB's reports, and discuss the need for filling the gaps in these numbers and taking them further.

Significance and Limitations

•  The USCCB does not maintain a running total of the number of priests who have been accused or the number of victims who have come forward. The table below calculates those totals from the USCCB's own data.

•  The USCCB has never released a count of the number of priests accused in 2003, which was a year when many victims came forward. They recently created another gap in the running-total data in January-June 2014, as explained below.

•  The USCCB has not released the names of the 6,721 clerics whom they count as accused.

•  Thirty-three U.S. bishops have named their accused priests – see our collection of links to those bishops' lists – and six superiors of religious orders have released lists as well.

•  BishopAccountability.org maintains a Database of Accused Priests and other accused clergy. As of June 20, 2017, there were 4,268 names in that database, including 3,774 priests, 27 bishops, 59 deacons, and 23 seminarians, for a total of 3,883 accused clerics in those categories. But the USCCB's counts now total 6,721 accused priests, bishops, deacons, and seminarians. This means that there are at least 2,838 accused clerics whose names are still not public. In other words, of the current 6,721 total, at least 42 percent of the names are still being kept secret by bishops and superiors of religious orders. Note that our database also includes the names of 290 accused brothers and 95 accused sisters. The USCCB data do not include those categories.

•  The USCCB and CARA counts include data from most US dioceses, but a smaller percentage of the religious orders have cooperated with the process. Partly because of this, accused religious order priests appear to be under-represented in the USCCB data, which indicate that only 21% of accused priests are members of religious orders. But religious order priests currently comprise 31% of all US priests. In 1985, members of religious orders were 39% of the total, as they were in 1960.

  Diocesan Religious Order
Accused Priests in USCCB Data 1950-2016 77% 21%
All US Priests 2016 69% 31%
All US Priests 1985 61% 39%
All US Priests 1960 61% 39%

•  Recent data suggest that the religious orders might be improving their reporting. In 2014-2015, according to the USCCB data, only 18% of priests newly accused in that year were members of religious orders. In the 2015-2016 USCCB report, 27% of the newly accused priests were members of religious orders.

Sources of the Data

The USCCB hired the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to evaluate data submitted by member bishops regarding the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests, bishops, deacons, and seminarians. In its 2004 report, the John Jay College found, according to survey forms completed by the bishops, that the bishops had received in 1950-2002 "not implausible" allegations of sexual abuse of 10,667 minors committed by 4,392 priests, including 12 bishops.

The John Jay College report also provides an estimate of the number of priests who worked in the United States 1950-2002. The surveys collected for the project reported 75,694 diocesan priests and approximately 34,000 religious priests, for a total of 109,694. In the years 2003-2016, the Catholic church has ordained 6,996 men to the priesthood, according to the Official Catholic Directory's General Summary of diocesan data. That brings the total number of priests in 1950-2016 to 116,690.

Year Ordained Year Ordained
2003 449 2010 472
2004 544 2011 480
2005 467 2012 485
2006 438 2013 471
2007 581 2014 508
2008 487 2015 545
2009 482 2016 587
    Total 6,996

In 2004, the USCCB commissioned the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University to begin collecting annual data on allegations and settlements, and starting in Spring 2005, CARA has published a report each year, beginning with the CARA Report on 2004. (See Bendyna's 2/15/05 letter to Skylstad describing the commission, in the 2005 Report, PDF p. 12.) Among other data, that report counts the number of diocesan and religious order priests "credibly" accused of abuse during the previous calendar year, and states how many of those had been accused in prior years or are being accused for the first time. These data were obtained using a survey that was available to the bishops and superiors of religious orders online. See, for example, the 2009 diocesan and religious order surveys (populated by CARA with aggregate US numbers), and see below for the Manchester diocese's summaries of its responses to the surveys.

Gaps and Opportunities

The latest CARA report – the CARA report on 2015-2016 – was released on May 20, 2017 along with an audit of the implementation of the Charter. We have cached a copy of the report for safekeeping. That report and the previous one – the CARA Report on 2014-2015 – implement a very unfortunate change in reporting period that was first used in the CARA report on 2013-2014.

Before those three reports, in the reports on the years 2004 through 2013, the CARA part of the report published and analyzed data collected for the calendar year, unlike the "audit" part of the annual report, which used a July-June period. For example, the CARA Report on 2013 reported and analyzed allegations received by the bishops and superiors of religious orders between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013. That was the 10th report to collect data in this way, so the CARA Report on 2013 was able to compare its data with a decade's worth of data collected using the same methodology. That "trend data" over time was an important achievement of the CARA reports.

The last three reports – the CARA Report on 2013-2014, the CARA Report in 2014-2015, and now the CARA report on 2015-2016 – have changed their data period to match the period of the "audit" that appears in the same annual report. As a result, the CARA Report on 2013-2014 reported data from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. These data overlapped the CARA Report on 2013, and the two half-years' data were not separated from each other in the CARA Report on 2013-2014. The CARA Report on 2013-2014 admits that, as a result, this "CARA Survey of Allegations and Costs does not present trend data in tables as was the case in previous reports" (page 31, PDF page 38). Similarly, in the CARA Report in 2014-2015 and the CARA report on 2015-2016, the rich trend data for 2004-2013 that are analyzed in previous reports cannot be compared with the current year. The USCCB decision to change the data period of these reports has needlessly disrupted a very useful CARA dataset, developed over more than a decade of important analysis.

Another result of the USCCB's changing CARA's reporting period is that six months of data have been effectively lost from the running totals that can be calculated from the CARA counts (see below). The CARA Report on 2013-2014 lumps together data from the second half of 2013 (already reported in the CARA Report on 2013) and data from the first half of 2014. The report does not separate the data for those two half-years, so it is not possible to isolate the "new" data for January 1, 2014 through June 30, 2014 and include them in the running totals. After a six-month gap, we pick up the story in the CARA Report in 2014-2015, which reports data from July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2015.

It is to be hoped that the USCCB will reconsider its decision to change the data period for the CARA reports, so that the lost priests and victims from January-June 2014 can be included in the running totals. This would also allow CARA to resume its trend analysis of the data.

A trend analysis across all the data 2004-2016 would be especially illuminating in 2016, because the CARA report on 2015-2016 documents a dramatic increase in the number of victims who came forward in that year, and the number of priests accused and newly accused, as may be seen from the table below. Those increases are best understood in a broader context.

The aggregate data of the John Jay College and CARA reports have their inherent limitations. Our Database of Accused Priests and the lists of accused posted by some bishops and religious superiors show that detailed disclosure can be useful to all parties. A USCCB policy to post state-of-the-art lists of accused would signal a new approach to data and a recognition of its value.

Below we have collated the data on accused priests as provided in the John Jay College report, and we have supplemented that data with CARA's count of the number of priests newly accused each year. We provide a year-by-year summary of the USCCB's data and also calculate totals, which are lacking in the USCCB reports. The numbers in the table are color-coded for easier reference red for credibly accused priests and purple for victims. We also provide links to all the USCCB source documents from which the numbers are derived, so that the numbers in this table can be checked.

Years Total Newly
Accused in Each Time Period
Newly Accused Diocesan Clerics in Each Time Period Newly Accused Religious Order Clerics in Each Time Period Newly Accused Other Clerics in Each Time Period Source Notes
1950-2002

4,392

10,667
survivors

3,282 929

181

 

John Jay Report for the USCCB, pp. 28 and 42. See also a PDF of the John Jay report. The "diocesan" category includes diocesan priests, extern priests, eparchian priests, deacons, bishops, seminarians, and other. In addition to 3,282 diocesan priests and 929 religious order priests, the John Jay report counted 181 priests who were accused of abuse but whose "clerical status" (diocesan or religious) was not provided in the source surveys. The John Jay researchers included priests "not implausibly" accused.
2003

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

    The USCCB never released data for 2003.
2004

387

1,083
survivors of new and previously accused priests

311

889
survivors of new and previously accused priests

76

194
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2004 (PDF pp. 12, 18-21, 34-47, no surveys provided) The CARA report states (p. 8): "Of the 134 [religious order] priests and deacons against whom allegations
were made ... [l]ess than half, 43 percent ... had been the
subject of previous allegations prior to January 1, 2004." I.e., 57% of the 134 were newly accused, or 76.38. We have rounded down to 76.
2005

203

777
survivors of new and previously accused priests

158

690
survivors of new and previously accused priests

45

87
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2005 (PDF pp. 37-57, 57-60; i.e., Chapters 5 and 6, Appendices B and C [blank surveys]) The CARA report states (p. 40): "Of the 69 religious priests ... [j]ust over a third, 35 percent ... had already been the subject of previous allegations in prior years." I.e., 65% of the 69 were newly accused, or 44.85. We have rounded up to 45.
2006

189

710
survivors of new and previously accused priests

168

632
survivors of new and previously accused priests

21

78
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2006 (PDF pp. 18-40, 46-49; i.e., Chapter 3; Appendices I and II [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2007

204

689
survivors of new and previously accused priests

158

598
survivors of new and previously accused priests

46

91
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2007 (PDF pp. 34-56, 68-71; i.e., Chapter 4 and Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2008

225

796
survivors of new and previously accused priests

173

620
survivors of new and previously accused priests

52

176
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2008 (PDF pp. 35-57, 70-73; i.e., Chapter 4 and Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2009

169

513
survivors of new and previously accused priests

130

398
survivors of new and previously accused priests

39

115
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2009 (Chapter 4, Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2010

179

501
survivors of new and previously accused priests

144

426
survivors of new and previously accused priests

35

75
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2010 (PDF pp. 30-52, 65-68, i.e., Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2011

167

588
survivors of new and previously accused priests

147

489
survivors of new and previously accused priests

20

99
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2011 (PDF pp. 39-61, 73-76, i.e., Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2012

160

471
survivors of new and previously accused priests

131

397
survivors of new and previously accused priests

29

74
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2012 (PDF pp. 34-56, 65-68, i.e., Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 32 and 39 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
2013

152

464
survivors of new and previously accused priests

129

370
survivors of new and previously accused priests

23

94
survivors of new and previously accused priests

  CARA Report on 2013 (PDF pp. 36-57, 68-74, i.e., Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 32 and 39 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
January 1, 2014 through
June 30, 2014

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

Not
Available

 

CARA Report on 2013-2014 changed the reporting period of the data. The data in this report were not collected for the calendar year 2014, as was the case with previous reports. Instead, the period was July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014. As a result, this data partially overlaps data already reported in the CARA Report on 2013, and it is not possible to separate the new data from the data already reported.

Unfortunately, the decision to change the data collection period has interrupted CARA's own very useful project of comparing the data across years.

The change in period also creates a 6-month gap in the data we are posting here. Half of the data in the CARA Report on 2013-2014 overlaps the data provided in the CARA Report on 2013, and the duplicated data for July 1, 2013 through December 31, 2013 is not separated out. As a result, it is not possible to isolate from the CARA Report on 2013-2014 the part of the data which is new, i.e., the data from January 1 through June 30, 2014. In order to avoid double-counting, it is necessary to accept an under-count.

July 1, 2014 through
June 30, 2015
101

392
survivors of new and previously accused priests
82

321
survivors of new and previously accused priests
19

71
survivors of new and previously accused priests
  CARA Report in 2014-2015. (PDF pp. 72-75, i.e., Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant counts])  
July 1, 2015 through
June 30, 2016
193

914
survivors of new and previously accused priests
140

730
survivors of new and previously accused priests
53

184
survivors of new and previously accused priests
  CARA Report in 2015-2016. (PDF pp. 74-77, i.e., Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals; see line items 31 and 38 in each survey for the relevant priest counts, and line 1 for the victim counts])  
Grand Total of Accused Priests, with USCCB's Ratio of Accused Diocesan and Order Priests 6,721





5,153

77%
1,387

21%
181

3%
 


Percentages do not total 100% because of rounding.
 
 
Ratios of Diocesan to Religious Order Priests in 2016, 1985, and 1960 Total Diocesan Religious
Order
     
2016 37,930 26,199

69%
11,731

31%
 
    Data from Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 2016)
1985 57,317 35,052

61%
22,265

39%
 
    Data from Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1985)
1960 53,796 32,569

61%
21,227

39%
    Data from Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1960)

 

 

Total Survivors 18,565 6,560 1,338   10,667 from JJC report  


Sources:


1950-2002: Karen Terry et al., The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States [a.k.a. the "John Jay Report"] (Washington, D.C.: USCCB, 2004)

2004-2016: Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (Washington, D.C.: 2005-2017), see above for links to individual reports.

Data on Total Priests in 1960, 1985, and 2016: Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1960, 1985, and 2016).

Diocese of Manchester: Summaries of the Completed CARA Surveys

See also the Manchester diocese's reports during the NH attorney general's audit of the diocese, and the attorney general's repeated insistence that the diocese fully comply with the terms of the audit.

2004

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

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