See our table showing the sources for the 6,721 total.
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 June 20, 2017, are:
How many children have been victimized by priests?
This count of victims is universally acknowledged to be lower than the actual number. Here are
several estimates of the correct number.
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."
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?
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. In 2010 we revised a spreadsheet showing the status of each bishop analyzed by Egerton and Dunklin. It shows that:
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.
The exact number is not known. The most reliable estimate appears in
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.
8 . How many settlements have been made for how much?
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 21 percent of the 17,259 survivors who the bishops say have come forward. The total number of victims may be 100,000.
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:
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.
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?
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 email@example.com, if possible with a link to a news article about the laicization.
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
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, Delaware, and Minnesota, and the effort to reform the laws in other states.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.