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Number of U.S. Priests Accused of Sexually Abusing Children and Numbers of Persons Alleging Abuse

Compiled by BishopAccountability.org
From reports commissioned by the USCCB
Updated May 20, 2016

As of May 20, 2016, information published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) indicates that the conference has counted 6,528 clerics "not implausibly" and "credibly" accused of sexually abusing minors in the period 1950 through June 30, 2015, with several gaps. Out of a total of 116,153 priests who have worked in those years, this latest number represents 5.6% of the priests.

This interim number 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 U.S. 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 total would rise to 11,615 priests accused of abuse.

As of May 20, 2016, the USCCB has counted 17,651 victims who are known to the bishops in the period 1950 through June 30, 2015. 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 twelve USCCB reports that contain this priest and victim information 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 supplies those missing totals.

•  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 have now created another gap in the running-total data in January-June 2014, as explained below.

•  The USCCB has not released the names of the 6,528 clerics who have been accused.

•  About 30 U.S. bishops have named their accused priests – see our collection of links to those bishops' lists – and several superiors of religious orders have released lists as well.

•  BishopAccountability.org maintains a Database of Accused Priests and other accused clergy. As of May 20, 2016, there were 4,220 names in that database, including 3,733 priests, 26 bishops, 58 deacons, and 23 seminarians, for a total of 3,840 accused clerics in those categories. But the USCCB's counts now total 6,528 accused priests, bishops, deacons, and seminarians. This means that there are at least 2,688 accused clerics whose names are still not public. In other words, of the current 6,528 total, at least 41 percent of the names are still being kept secret by bishops and superiors of religious orders.

•  The USCCB and CARA counts include data from most U.S. 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 20% 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 1950-2015 77% 20%
All US Priests 2014 68% 32%
All US Priests 1985 61% 39%
All US Priests 1960 61% 39%

•  Recent ratios of accused order priests are even more inconsistent with the totals for all priests. For example, in 2014-2015, according to the USCCB data, only 18% of newly accused priests were members of religious orders, and 82% of newly accused priests were diocesan priests. But in the 2014 Official Catholic Directory, 32% of U.S. priests were members of religious orders, and 68% were diocesan priests. If order and diocesan priests offend at similar rates, the number of newly accused order priests should have been more than twice the 19 that were reported. The 19 figure is even more suspect, because for the first time the report states that it includes perpetually professed brothers, as well as priests, in the total.

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 2002-2015, the Catholic church has ordained 6,459 men to the priesthood, according to the Official Catholic Directory and CARA. That brings the total number of priests in 2002-2015 to 116,153.

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 595
2009 482 Total 6,459

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 U.S. 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 2014-2015 allegations – was released on May 20, 2016 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 2013-2014 allegations – were the first reports to implement a very unfortunate change in reporting period.

Previously, in the reports on the years 2004 through 2013, the CARA report published and analyzed data collected during the calendar year, unlike the "audit" part of the 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 two reports – the CARA Report on 2013-2014 and the CARA Report in 2014-2015 – have both changed their data period to match the period of the "audit" that appears in the same volume. 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. 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, the rich trend data that is 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 analysis.

Another result of CARA's changing the 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.

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 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.

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])  
Grand Total of Accused Priests, with USCCB's Ratio of Accused Diocesan and Order Priests 6,528





5,013

77%
1,334

20%
181

3%
 
   
 
Ratios of Diocesan to Religious Order Priests in 2014, 1985, and 1960 Total Diocesan Religious
Order
     
2014 39,022 26,696

68%
12,326

32%
 
    Data from Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 2014)
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 17,651 5,830 1,154   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)

2004-2015: 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.: 2005-2014), see above for links to individual reports.

Data on Total Priests in 1960, 1985, and 2014: Official Catholic Directory (New York: Kenedy & Sons, 1960, 1985, and 2014).

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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