Hard Look at Sins of the Fathers
The Age [New York]
February 29, 2004
America's Catholic bishops accepted a severe scolding on Friday from their own national review board of prominent lay Catholics for their "shameful" handling of more than 10,000 "substantiated allegations" of sexual abuse against minors by 4392 priests and deacons - about 4 per cent of those who served between 1950 and 2002.
"This is a failing not simply on the part of the priests who sexually abused minors, but also on the part of those bishops and other church leaders who did not act effectively to preclude that abuse in the first instance or respond appropriately when it occurred," said the National Review Board.
While accepting the verdict, Louisiana Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said recent reforms - including the removal of 700 men from the priesthood since January 2002 - had made life safer for children.
"The terrible history recorded here today is history," Bishop Gregory said at a news conference. In an aside to the country's 63 million Catholics, he added: "As far as it is humanly possible to know such things, I assure you that known offenders are not in the ministry. Bishops now have in place the means of responding immediately to allegations, assisting victims and removing offenders from ministry."
A study conducted for the review board by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York, was also released on Friday. It said church records showed only 613 (14 per cent) of the 4392 accused abusers - almost all priests, but with a smattering of deacons - were reported to police. Only 138 (2.3 per cent) were eventually convicted.
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