Some Bishops Release 50-Year Recaps of Clergy Sexual Abuse
Catholic News Service [Washington DC]
January 14, 2004
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Several U.S. bishops recently released summaries of clergy sexual abuse allegations in their dioceses since 1950.
The New Orleans Archdiocese said that out of accusations against 20 clerics in that time, 10 were deemed credible, seven not credible and three inconclusive. A total of 1,139 priests and deacons have served in the archdiocese since 1950.
The Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y., reported that out of 734 priests serving since 1950, 49 have been accused. Five were cleared, 16 were removed from ministry, 13 are dead, two were laicized at their request, and allegations against 13 are still under investigation.
The neighboring Diocese of Rochester said that out of 1,706 clerics serving since 1950, 36 priests have been accused. Six were dead when the allegations were made, 18 were suspended or resigned, allegations against six were judged to be unfounded, and there was not enough information or substantiation for the cases against six.
Among other archdioceses and dioceses that recently reported data were Honolulu; Springfield, Ill.; Dubuque, Iowa; Venice, Fla.; Alexandria, La.; Bismarck, N.D.; Sacramento and Orange in California; Lafayette and Gary in Indiana; and Beaumont, Austin and Dallas in Texas.
The local data were compiled across the country in recent months as the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York conducted a national study, mandated by the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," on the nature and scope of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy from 1950 to the end of 2002.
Besides numbers of accused clergy and alleged victims, the study sought information on the number of alleged incidents, when they occurred, what type of abuse was claimed and the costs incurred for legal fees, settlements and treatment of the abuser and the victim.
Dioceses have been encouraged to release their local data. A number of bishops did so at the end of the year or in conjunction with the Jan. 6 release of a separate national report on compliance of dioceses with the sex abuse reporting, outreach and prevention standards set by the charter.
The national report on the nature and extent of clergy sexual abuse of minors since 1950, which will not include a diocese-by-diocese breakdown, is to be released in late February.
Many of the dioceses that have released reports say their last known incident of clerical sexual abuse of a minor dates back to 1990 or earlier. In diocese after diocese, most of the claims involve incidents from the 1960s, '70s or early '80s.
The Honolulu Diocese reported that five of its priests -- less than 1 percent of the estimated 530 priests serving in Hawaii since 1950 -- have been removed because of substantiated abuse accusations.
A sixth priest serving in Hawaii, who was from the Philippines, was dismissed and returned to the supervision of his home diocese. Two priests of religious orders also have been accused of abuse occurring while they were stationed in Hawaii. The diocese said there was one other accusation that an internal investigation found groundless.
The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois said that since 1950 it had received 43 credible allegations against 14 priests, representing about 3.3 percent of the 425 diocesan priests serving there since 1950. It said it was also aware of five accusations against three religious priests for incidents while they were stationed in the diocese.
The Dubuque Archdiocese said 18 of the 26 priests accused there are now deceased. It said since 1950 there were 678 diocesan and 295 religious priests serving in the archdiocese. Of the eight living priests who were accused, it said five are elderly, one was laicized, one was sentenced to prison and is now on parole, and one has been removed from all ministry.
The Venice Diocese, established in 1984, said that since then five of the 626 diocesan, religious or extern priests serving in the diocese have been accused. An extern priest belongs to a different diocese than the one in which he's working.
The Alexandria Diocese reported that in the past eight years one priest and two laymen had been credibly accused of abuse. In that time the diocese had a total of 88 diocesan priests, 19 religious order priests and seven permanent deacons serving there. The diocese said that "there are likely other cases in the last 50 years for which we have no documentation" because of bad diocesan record-keeping on that subject.
The Bismarck Diocese said 15 people have accused 11 of the 222 priests serving in the diocese since 1957.
In a letter distributed in all parishes Jan. 10-11, Bishop William K. Weigand of Sacramento said that between 1950 and 2002, there were unresolved accusations against 1.4 percent, or 17 of the 1,215 priests who served there. Four other priests were accused but exonerated.
Of 33 lawsuits the diocese currently faces, nearly half involve allegations of abuse by Father Mario Blanco, a former Salesian priest who worked in the diocese from 1969 until he was dismissed in 1973 after allegations of sexual misconduct. He left the church after his dismissal, and since then he has headed congregations of a schismatic Catholic traditionalist movement.
The Diocese of Orange said that since it was formed in 1976, 16 of its 589 priests, or less than 3 percent, have been accused of sexual abuse of minors. There were 47 alleged victims.
In Indiana, the Diocese of Lafayette said 26 people have accused 18 priests since 1950; allegations against 11 were found to be credible. One of the 11 belonged to a religious order and another was from another diocese. From 1950 to 2003, it said, 295 diocesan priests, six externs and, to the best of its knowledge, 462 religious priests served in the diocese.
The report from the Gary Diocese, which was formed in December 1956, said that since then there have been 13 allegations against five diocesan priests, one religious priest and one nun.
Claims against two of the diocesan priests, both now retired, were judged not credible. The other three diocesan priests were dead. Two had multiple accusers and the allegations were judged credible. There was no investigation into the allegation against the third dead priest because the putative victim expressed no desire for it.
The Gary report did not include Msgr. Don C. Grass, who was removed in December after admitting abusing a girl 35 years ago, because the study was completed before the allegation was made against him.
In Texas, the Beaumont Diocese has had 313 clergy since it was formed in 1966. It reported that since then allegations made against five diocesan priests and one seminarian were judged credible. Two of the priests are dead and the other three have been removed from ministry. The seminarian was dismissed.
The Austin Diocese, formed in 1947, said that since then about 400 diocesan and religious priests have served there. It said 15 known victims have made verified allegations of abuse against five diocesan priests and one in a religious order -- 1.5 percent of the clergy during that time.
The Dallas Diocese -- which made international headlines in the 1990s when victims of former priest Rudolph Kos were awarded millions of dollars -- said that it had 1,153 clerics serving there over the past 53 years. In that time, 48 victims made credible allegations against 15 priests and one deacon, or 1.4 percent of the clergy, it said. It added that five of the priests were responsible for 37 of the victims.
The Kos settlements accounted for the bulk of the $39.1 million the diocese has distributed since 1950 in financial settlements with victims. Insurance covered nearly two-thirds of the cost of those settlements.
Contributing to this story were Jennifer Ficcaglia in Rochester, Connie Cissell Meaney in Syracuse, Patrick Downes in Honolulu, Kathie Sass in Springfield, Julie Sly in Sacramento, Karen Gilman in Beaumont, Helen Osman in Austin, Bronson Havard in Dallas and Jerry Filteau in Washington.
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