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Data on the Crisis
The Human Toll

Thousands of Catholic clergy and religious have raped and sodomized tens of thousands of children—perhaps more than 100,000 children—since 1950. These crimes were committed in secret, and bishops nurtured that secrecy. Nearly 15,000 survivors have broken through the silence, and their accounts have created an in-depth picture of the crisis, both in their own writings and in the work of journalists and law enforcement officials. Attorneys have obtained diocesan documents that reveal additional survivor witness and also document parts of a huge cover-up. But for every account that is known, hundreds are not yet public. In order to understand the crisis fully and take the necessary policy actions, the in-depth testimony of individual survivors must be combined with data that capture the breadth of the crisis.

This webpage begins an ongoing project by BishopAccountability.org to provide the best available data on the crisis, together with suggestions for extrapolating from detailed data to understand topics for which the data are weak or incomplete.


Sex Crimes
  1. How many priests have been accused?
  2. How many children have been victimized by priests?
  3. How have incidents and allegations varied over time?

Management
  4. How many bishops have been accused of abuse?
  5. How many bishops have enabled abuse?
  6. What percent of parishes in each diocese have been affected?
  Outcomes
  7. How many cases have been filed?
  8. How many settlements have been made for how much?
  9. How many false allegations have been made?
10 . How many cases have ended in a trial?
11. How many priests have been laicized for sexual abuse?
12. Where are the accused priests now?
13. What is the current status of statutes of limitations and what are the trends?

 

Sex Crimes

1. How many priests have been accused?

The U.S. bishops have reported receiving allegations of abuse by 6,427 priests in 1950-2013, or 5.9% of the 109,694 U.S. priests active 1950-2002, according to the John Jay report. Including the 5,356 priests ordained since 2002 brings the total to 115,050, of whom 5.6% have been accused of abuse.

See our table showing the sources for the 6,427 total.

Other percentages

After the March 2009 release of audit documents by the NH AG, the names of 74 accused Manchester priests are known, or over 8.9% of the 831 diocesan priests, which extrapolates to 9,768 nationally

Covington diocese states that 9.6% of its priests have been accused, which extrapolates to 10,531 nationally

Over 10% of Providence RI priests have been accused, which extrapolates to over 10,969 nationally

Richard Sipe estimates that 9% of U.S. priests have offended, which extrapolates to 9,872 priests nationally

See our summary of the data with links to sources. BishopAccountablity.org maintains a Database of Accused Priests that provides information on every bishop, priest, nun, brother, deacon, and seminarian who has been named publicly in an allegation. Our current totals in those categories, as of May 3, 2014, are:

Accused U.S. clerics and religious
whose names have been made public

24 bishops  
3,536
priests
91
nuns
245
brothers
56
deacons
21
seminarians
3,973
total



2. How many children have been victimized by priests?

As with the official numbers for accused priests, the sources are The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Deacons, by Karen Terry et al., prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (Washington DC: USCCB, 2004), with the annual implementation reports issued by the USCCB for 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 (chap. 4), 2010, and 2011. See our table collecting the data from these sources.

 

The U.S. bishops report receiving allegations from 17,259 victims.

This count of victims is universally acknowledged to be lower than the actual number. Here are several estimates of the correct number.

  25,383 – using the current USCCB rate of victims per priest (2.6) and the New Hampshire level of accused priests (8.9%)

  46,125 – using the Boston archdiocesan count of victims and the Boston share of U.S. Catholics

100,000 – using Rev. Andrew Greeley's 1993 partial estimate of 2,500 accused priests and 50 victims per priest

280,000 – using the USCCB's current count of accused priests (5,600) and Greeley's estimate of 50 victims per priest



3. How have incidents and allegations varied over time?

The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Deacons, by Karen Terry et al., prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice (Washington DC: USCCB, 2004) and the Supplementary Data Analysis published by the same authors in 2006 propose a "Shape of the Crisis."



Management

4. How many bishops have been accused of abuse of minors?

19 bishops in the United States have been accused of sexual abuse

The most complete tabulation of abuse allegations against U.S. bishops is our U.S. Bishops Accused of Abuse, which includes photos, career histories, and links to sources.



5 . How many bishops have enabled abuse?

Approximately two-thirds of sitting U.S. bishops were alleged in 2002 to have kept accused priests in ministry or moved accused priests to new assignments.

The best available study of bishops accused of enabling abuse is Two-Thirds of Bishops Let Accused Priests Work, by Brooks Egerton and Reese Dunklin (Dallas Morning News, June 12, 2002), with its table Bishops' Record in Cases of Accused Priests. We are currently reviewing that table and updating it. We have recently revised a spreadsheet showing the status of each bishop analyzed by Egerton and Dunklin. It shows that:

Of the 109 bishops identified in the Dallas Morning News survey,
only 33 bishops (30%) are still managing the same diocese. Of the others:
12 have resigned,
45 have retired,
15 were promoted, and
3 died in office.



6. What percent of parishes in each diocese have been affected?

Studies suggest that many Catholic dioceses in the United States have had a priest accused of abuse living at the rectory and doing parish work. The Los Angeles Times determined from an extensive data study in 2005 that over three-quarters of LA parishes had been at risk since 1950. We have done similar studies of Davenport IA and Rockville Centre NY and will release a study of Bridgeport CT later this summer. In the next week, we will be updating our Davenport study to include additional accused priests acknowledged by the diocese on 7/11/08.

56 of Davenport's 130 parishes – 43%
221 of Los Angeles' 288 parishes – 77%
90 of Rockville Centre's 134 parishes – 67%
65 of Bridgeport's 98 parishes 66%




Outcomes

7. How many cases have been filed?

Over 3,000 civil lawsuits have been filed in the United States between 1984 and 2009.

The exact number is not known. The most reliable estimate appears in Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse Meets the Civil Law, by Thomas Doyle and Steven Rubino (Fordham Urban Law Review, January 1, 2004), p. 3 and n. 11. Doyle and Rubino conclude "from unofficial consultations with attorneys and from press reports" that 1984-2003 "there have been about 3,000 civil cases related to clergy sex abuse throughout the United States." This would appear to include the hundreds of suits filed during the 2003 SOL window in California. It does not include suits filed in 2004-2009, after the article appeared.

Rubino is cited in Holding Bishops Accountable: How Lawsuits Helped the Catholic Church Confront Clergy Sexual Abuse, by Timothy D. Lytton (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press), p. 50, as stating that in 1984-2005 he opened 2,264 new client files. During the same period, Jeffrey Anderson signed retainer agreements with 1,012 clients. Both groups of cases include some complainants allegedly abused by non-Catholic clergy.

An unknown number of complaints have been settled by U.S. bishops before lawsuits were filed, often with confidentiality agreements.



8 . How many settlements have been made for how much?

Over $3 billion in awards and settlements have been made comprising:

$750 million in settlements 1950-2002 (partly overlaps next item)
$2 billion in large settlements and awards 1984-2008 with 3,547 survivors
$500 million in smaller settlements 2003-2008

For the best data on settlements, see our table Major Settlements and Monetary Awards in Civil Suits. That table provides exact counts and estimates in three categories:

(1) $1,902,825,000 in large settlements and awards (in excess of $1 million each);

(2) Pre-2002 payouts, documented in local John Jay reports, of more than $750 million (some of that amount overlaps item 1 above); and

(3) Smaller post-2002 settlements (under $1 million each) likely totaling at least $500 million.

This estimated total of $3 billion far exceeds the dire prediction of Doyle, Peterson, and Mouton in 1985. And $3 billion might even be an underestimate. Our table shows payouts to 3,547 survivors, only about 27 percent of the over 13,000 survivors who the bishops say have come forward. The total number of victims may be 100,000.



9. How many false allegations have been made?

Fewer than 2 percent of sexual abuse allegations against the Catholic church appear to be false.


"Patrick Schiltz, dean of the University of St. Thomas law school in Minnesota, said that over more than a decade he had defended Catholic dioceses against sexual-abuse lawsuits in more than 500 cases, and that he had concluded that 'fewer than 10' of those cases were based on false accusations." See Doubt Is Cast on Accuser of 2 Priests, Judge Says, by Sam Dillon, New York Times, August 31, 2002. Schiltz was named a federal district court judge in 2006.

The Schiltz estimate is corroborated by a 2004 report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and written by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The report analyzed surveys completed by the U.S. dioceses and many religious orders. The collated results of one of the surveys show that 5,681diocesan investigations of abuse allegations in 1950-2002 yielded definitive results:

4,570 allegations were substantiated      (80%)
1,028 allegations were unsubstantiated  (18%)
     83 allegations were deemed false     (1.5%)

Note that these definitively investigated allegations represent slightly more than half of the 10,667 allegations reported in the John Jay study. The other allegations were investigated without definitive result or were not investigated at all. Moreover, the church-funded research project did not collect any data on 298 priests who were considered by their bishops to be exonerated when the dioceses completed the surveys in 2003.

Kathleen McChesney, who was the first executive director of the Office for Child and Youth Protection of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has summarized the John Jay findings on false allegations: "False reporting of sexual abuse by children is very rare."

In 1985, Rev. Michael R. Peterson, then president of St. Luke Institute, a church treatment center for priests accused of sexual abuse, sent a package to the bishop of every diocese in the United States. The package contained a letter, an essay on the abuse problem, a copy of the Manual that Peterson wrote with Rev. Thomas P. Doyle O.P. and F. Ray Mouton, and a collection of scientific articles on sexual abuse. In his essay, Peterson states: "In general, the adage that 'where there is smoke there is fire' is almost always true. I am not saying that it is impossible for a false accusation to be made; I am saying that in general the 'tip of the iceberg' is being exposed with a single accusation and that the cleric will generally need some kind of professional and legal help in a very short period of time."

The assessments cited above were made during the period 1985-2006 by experts employed by the U.S. bishops. Note that while false accusations are very rare, they do happen. A Boston man victimized as a very young child misidentified his perpetrator. The priest was reinstated. An extortionist accused a Portland, Oregon, priest with many substantiated allegations against him. The extortionist is now in prison. BishopAccountability.org is assembling data on disputed allegations.



10. How many cases have ended in a trial?

We have identified 37 civil cases that have gone to trial.

The best source on trials of sexual abuse suits alleging abuse by Catholic clergy is our Sexual Abuse Cases That Have Gone to Trial. We identify 37 trials in 1986-2009 and provide links to source information..



11. How many priests have been laicized for sexual abuse?

In 2001-2010, the Vatican states that 600 priests accused of sexual abuse have been laicized worldwide, half at their own request and half by papal decree.

We have identified 325 accused U.S. priests who have been laicized.


The Vatican statistics come from a 3/13/10 interview with Msgr. Charles J. Scicluna. The most complete list of laicized priests is our Laicizations - A Revised Draft Preliminary List, updated 3/27/10, which provides names and links to sources for 325 laicized priests, with additional information on pending laicizations and other disciplinary action. The second tab in the spreadsheet sorts the data roughly by year. We are continuing to revise and update this list. If you know of a laicized U.S. priest who is not on our list, please send his name to us at staff@bishop-accountability.org, if possible with a link to a news article about the laicization.

12. Where are the accused priests now?

Little is known about the whereabouts of Catholic priests who have been accused of sexual abuse. BishopAccountability.org is launching a national effort to determine the current status of every person listed in our Database of Accused Priests—who is dead, who is in prison, who has been returned to ministry, who is working in another profession, and where they now live and work. We will not provide street addresses. Please contact us at staff@bishop-accountability.org if you have information to help with this important work.



13. What is the current status of statutes of limitations and what are the trends?

One of the most important public policy developments in this area is the reform of statutes of limitations in California and Delaware and the effort to reform the laws in other states. BishopAccountability.org is launching a national effort to provide information on these developments. Please contact us at staff@bishop-accountability.org if you can help with this work.

 

 
 

Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.