DIOCESE OF BISMARCK ND
Reconciliation and renewal
By Karen Herzog firstname.lastname@example.org
These costs, while substantial, did not factor in the closing of several diocesan offices in 2003, said Bishop Paul Zipfel.
On Friday, as he summarized the findings of the John Jay Report on sexual abuse by priests from 1950 to 2002 in the U.S., Zipfel noted that this is the beginning of the Lenten season, when Christians are called to reconciliation and renewal.
Zipfel pulled figures from the 125 pages of the recently-released report commissioned from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Zipfel called the numbers "disturbing, very disturbing."
"A great amount of trust has been lost."
Nationwide, the study showed substantiated allegations of abuse against a total of 4,392 priests during those 52 years, totaling 4 percent of the nearly 110,000 priests in active ministry during that period.
The church has paid more than $500 million during that period, a figure that includes victims' settlements, treatment for priests and legal expenses, the report says.
The findings have been accepted in a sense of guilt and repentance, Zipfel said. If the figures are low, it remains "the best effort we could make at the time," he said.
In the Bismarck Diocese, which covers roughly the western half of North Dakota, the figures were as follows: Of the 222 priests and permanent deacons who have served during the last 50 years, 11 priests were marked by 15 substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
Of the 11, Zipfel said, three are dead and eight others no longer serve in active ministry. The diocese's records show that incidents reported occurred in a time frame from 1962 to 1989.
The Fargo diocese has said 17 priests and deacons have been accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1950, and none of the accused currently serves in the ministry.
Officials in Fargo have not identified the number of victims in those cases.
Officials say the Fargo diocese has paid $821,830 in compensation to victims over the years.
The John Jay report showed that the greatest numbers of abuse per decade occurred during the 1970s, peaking in 1980, and that 68 percent of the priests with allegations were ordained between 1950 and 1979. Forty percent of priests with allegations participated in treatment programs. Just more than half of the alleged victims were between the ages of 11 and 14.
In the Bismarck Diocese, two priests actively serving were named and removed from their parishes. The names of others forbidden from sacramental activity have not been released, Zipfel said. This has been the policy of most other bishops, he said.
The eight living priests who no longer serve an active ministry are in various locations, Zipfel said. Their direction is to live "lives of penance and prayer."
However, it is not possible to monitor them 24 hours a day, he said. Any questionable activity by any of the men would mean the diocese might need to do a bit more work in that area, he said.
If more allegations are out there, "we are hoping we have extended our hand to bring people forward," Zipfel said.
The diocese is continuing implementing its compliance with the bishops' directives, he said.
Today is the final day of training for trainers who will visit all diocesan churches and institutions to teach compliance.
The goal is to make churches and schools safe environments, Zipfel said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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