Catholic Church Awaits Sex Abuse Study Results

By Ben Jackey
WFIE-TV [Evansville IN]
Downloaded February 23, 2004

Two studies will be released this week in the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

The first, the John Jay College survey. It will show, statistically, how widespread sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was nationally.

It's the second report that many Dioceses, including Evansville, will be watching closely.

In December of last year, the Diocese released its portion of the John Jay College study. And CNN leaked the national results early last week, where we learned 4500 priests were accused of abuse. Not much to that study is a mystery.

But the National Review Board's study is. The Diocese will not know the results of that for days. While they know who, what, when, and where, this study looks at how .

Before the media gets hold of this study, the Diocese held a pre-emptive news conference to show how it's working, to prevent this from happening again.

It was a media circus over which the Catholic Church had little control.

Bishop Gerald Gettelfinger says, "We got what we deserved because it just came seemingly out of the blue, when it really was not coming out of the blue. Anytime we said anything, it looked defensive."

Now the Diocese feeds the media its message of prevention, in an effort to be more up front with the facts as it awaits word of how widespread the abuse was.

Gettelfinger explains, "We've learned that the more we can get the information in the public forum, the better background you'll have when you report."

Part of that background information were the sexual abuse stats: 22 allegations against eleven priests, only four substantiated. Low in comparison to other Dioceses, but still troubling to those who compiled the numbers.

Judy Neff Diocese Chancellor "It was just one of overwhelming sadness as I went through these. Even there had only been one priest it's just a terrible thing."

Other troubling numbers were the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on subsequent legal matters, counseling, and the like. But the positive new numbers, the Diocese says, are 70 youth protection coordinators trained, thousands of negative background checks on employees, and no new allegations of abuse against priests - and hopefully none to share with the media in the future.

"This requires a very strong discipline on the part of our leaders much like our exercise program. It's going to be our ongoing vigilance day in and day out," claims Gettelfinger.

Bishop Gettelfinger says he'll be watching closely the results of the National Review Board's study. It was done independent of bishops, though the board was appointed by them. The bishop will receive the results 48 hours before the media. If any information is leaked, the board will move up its release date.


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