Citing Survey, CNN Says 4,450 Priests Were Accused of Abuse

By Laurie Goodstein
New York Times
February 17, 2004

A nationwide survey on the extent and causes of sexual abuse by members of the Roman Catholic clergy has found that 4,450 priests have been accused of sexually abusing minors since 1950, according to a CNN report about a draft of the survey results.

That is a higher number than has previously been estimated by any news outlet or by most experts. Those with knowledge of the survey results would not comment on the accuracy of the CNN report.

The survey was commissioned by a national review board of prominent Catholic laypeople appointed by the bishops at the height of the sexual abuse scandal in 2002 and was conducted by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

The survey is based on information supplied by the bishops of nearly all of the nation's 195 Catholic dioceses, where tens of thousands of priests have served since 1950. It was designed to be the most comprehensive accounting yet of the scope of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.

The survey is scheduled to be released on Feb. 27 at a news conference in Washington. The same day, the review board is supposed to release a lengthy report examining why the problem of sexual abuse persisted in the church and what factors were to blame.

The board's report, written by a committee led by the Washington lawyer Robert S. Bennett, is based on interviews with more than 100 church officials, experts and victims of abuse.

"Neither the John Jay report nor the national review board reports are complete," Mr. Bennett said. "They're a work in process, and people should wait until the 27th before drawing any conclusions about any of it."

CNN reported that there were 11,000 accusations of sexual abuse by priests and that 6,700 were substantiated after investigations. The network said that 1,000 were unsubstantiated after investigations and that the remaining 3,300 were not investigated because the accused priests had died.

CNN did not say how it learned the survey results or whether it had actually seen a draft. None of the bishops have yet seen the survey results, and they are not expected to have the survey in hand until immediately before its public release, spokesmen for the bishops said.

The only people who have seen the survey results are members of the review board and researchers at John Jay, all of whom were expected to keep the results confidential, Mr. Bennett said. Several board members and a John Jay official contacted on Monday would not say whether the CNN report was accurate.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said in a statement on Monday: "These reports will be a very sobering and important milestone. I have not seen the reports, and so I cannot comment on their substance. But I want to reaffirm that the bishops requested these studies so that we could understand as fully as possible what caused this terrible occurrence in the life of our community and to make sure that it never happens again."


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