Leaked Report Says 4,450 Priests Abused 11,000 Children since 1950
By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service
February 16, 2004
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- CNN reported Feb. 16 that, according to a draft report it obtained on sexual abuse of minors by U.S. Catholic priests and deacons, roughly 4,450 clergy allegedly abused 11,000 minors between 1950 and 2002.
"Whatever they reported is premature," said James Levine, dean of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which last year conducted a nationwide study of Catholic clergy sexual abuse of minors and plans to release its report Feb. 27. The study was commissioned by the National Review Board established by the U.S. bishops to help them deal with the clergy sex abuse crisis.
"We're still finalizing our report," Levine told Catholic News Service Feb. 16 by telephone. He said "it would be irresponsible" for him to comment on the figures reported by CNN.
He said a final portion of the CNN news story, reporting underlying causes of abuse, simply did not come from a draft of the John Jay study. CNN cited that study as its source for the causes as well as the figures it gave.
"We are not dealing with causes. We are dealing with scope and incidence. ... That's not verbiage from us," Levine said.
Illinois Appellate Court Justice Anne M. Burke, acting chair of the bishops' all-lay National Review Board -- which commissioned the John Jay report and plans to issue its own report Feb. 27 on the causes and context of the abuse -- told CNS Feb. 16 she had no idea what was the source of the CNN report on causes.
Asked if it was possible CNN had obtained a draft of the board's "causes and context" report as a source for its material on the causes, she said, "I would highly doubt that. I can't imagine how they would get it." She said the board's report, like the John Jay study, was still in the process of being completed.
When asked if language about causes in the CNN report might reflect views discussed in the board's report, she declined to make any comment that would relate to the substance of that report before its Feb. 27 release.
By mid-February about 90 of the 195 Catholic dioceses in the United States had released summaries of the local data they supplied to the John Jay researchers for the 52-year study on the nature and scope of abuse of minors by clerics. But many of the local summaries did not provide breakdowns by age of alleged victims or number of clerics facing more than one accusation.
According to CNN, the national draft report said 78 percent of the alleged victims were age 11 to 17 years at the time of the abuse, 16 percent were 8 to 10 years old, and 6 percent were 7 or younger.
CNN said "more than half" of the accused clerics faced only one allegation, 25 percent had two or three allegations, 13 percent faced four to nine, and 3 percent had 10 or more.
The 147 priests who comprised the 3 percent with the most allegations accounted for about 3,000 of the 11,000 victims, CNN said.
Citing the John Jay draft report as its source, it said reasons cited for the extent of the abuse in the church included "failure to grasp the gravity of the problem," "an overemphasis on avoidance of scandal," "use of unqualified treatment centers," "a misguided willingness to forgive" and "insufficient accountability."
Levine said it was not within the scope of the John Jay study to address questions of that kind.
When the John Jay study is released, it will be the first comprehensive national attempt by any major organization or profession in the United States to study and report publicly on the extent of sexual abuse of minors within its ranks.
For the other report to be released Feb. 27, the National Review Board interviewed about 75 bishops, priests, abuse victims and experts from areas such as treatment, law enforcement and child protection. The board's "causes and context" report is to serve as a basic framework for establishing a more extensive, scientific study into the reasons behind the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
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