OF CHARLESTON SC
Accused Priests: 24 (of which allegations against 21 were "determined" to be "credible"; not including 2 accused deacons and 1 accused deacon candidate; 1 deacon and the candidate were deemed credibly accused)
Total Priests: 852 (calculated from percentage below; apparently includes deacons)
Cost: $3,192,000 ($2,546,000 for settlements, and $646,000 for counseling and legal fees)
Source of Funds: For settlements, $642,000 by insurance companies, and $1,904,000 by the diocese)
See the Dallas Morning News database entry on Bishop Robert Baker. The June 2002 database examined the records of bishops and identified those who had allowed accused priests to continue working or had otherwise protected priests accused of sexual abuse. The database is relevant to the bishops' "Nature and Scope" study because the bishops who prepared the surveys for the study are in many cases responsible for the "scope" of the problem.
Study lists sex abuse cases in S.C.
By Christina Lee Knauss
The diocese determined allegations made against 21 priests, one deacon and the deacon candidate in South Carolina were credible. Those 23 represents about 2.7 percent of the clergy who worked in the diocese during the decades of the study, whereas nationally, about 4 percent of clergy were accused of abuse.
The study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice was commissioned by the conference to gather information from every Roman Catholic diocese nationwide on the number of clergy accused of sexually abusing minors.
The study also listed the number of accusers and the amount of money paid by each diocese for counseling, legal fees and settlement of claims.
"I am alarmed by every single situation of child sexual abuse and am reminded of the Lord's strong condemnation in the Scriptures of anyone who brings scandal to a child," said Bishop Robert Baker, spiritual leader of the Charleston Diocese, which serves more than 130,000 Roman Catholics in South Carolina.
"We as a church renew our commitment to protect children from any harm, and we continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse."
The study found that since 1950 in the Diocese of Charleston:
* Allegations of sexual abuse of minors were made against 24 priests, two deacons and one deacon candidate.
* Of the 23 with credible allegations against them, seven have retired, one was removed from ministry, eight are dead, three are on administrative leave, one left ministry of his own accord, one is in prison, one returned to his home country, and the deacon candidate was never ordained.
* A total of $2,546,000 has been paid in settlements: $642,000 by insurance companies, $1,904,000 by the diocese. Also, $646,000 was paid for counseling and legal fees.
45 Priest Abuse Cases in S.C.
National studies look at numbers, causes
By Dave Munday and Tony Bartelme
An unprecedented look at child sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church shows that at least 45 children in South Carolina said they were molested by priests and deacons since 1950.
Another highly anticipated report released Friday said the bishops' failure to stop sexual predators allowed the "smoke of Satan" into the church.
The South Carolina numbers were in the first study, a massive 11-month assessment of the extent of sexual abuse in the church and its human and financial costs.
-- Nationwide, at least 4,392 clergymen, or 4 percent, were accused of sexual misconduct between 1950 and 2002. More than 10,600 children said they were abused.
-- In South Carolina, 23 clergy members, or 2.7 percent, were accused of sexual abuse.
-- The church has paid more than half a billion dollars nationwide, including $2.5 million in South Carolina, to settle legal cases and pay for counseling of sex abuse victims.
The study generated mixed reviews.
The numbers represent "a floor, not a ceiling," said Denis Ventriglia, a North Carolina lawyer who has represented victims of priests in Charleston. "The number of victims and perpetrators can only go up."
Others appreciated the church's attempt to lance its wounds.
"I think what they were saying, in essence, is let the chips fall where they may, that we regret what has happened in the past and this is the only way to make sure it never happens again," said Ernie Berger, a member of Church of the Holy Spirit on Johns Island.
On Friday, the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the bishops, released a separate report examining the causes of the sex abuse crisis.
The board said American bishops failed to crack down on errant priests and "these leadership failings have been shameful to the church."
The board's report, based on interviews with clergy, victims and experts on sex offenders, is sure to fuel debate among Catholics on two controversial issues: whether the church should try to screen out gay priests and whether celibacy for clergy should be optional.
The board said celibacy was not a cause of the scandal but the celibacy requirement may have attracted candidates for the priesthood who were seeking an escape from their sexual problems.
The board came to no conclusions about whether gays should be ordained. It noted, however, that "any evaluation of the causes and context of the current crisis must be cognizant of the fact that more than 80 percent of the abuse at issue was of a homosexual nature."
The board acknowledged that some bishops recognized the gravity of the problem early on and spent years lobbying the Vatican to change church law so they could move faster against abusers.
Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, issued an apology "to all of you who have been harmed by those among us who violated your trust." He said the church would "do everything possible to see that it does not happen again."
Together, the two studies paint a portrait of a church struggling to deal with one of the biggest scandals in its history.
At a news conference Friday behind the Diocese of Charleston's chancery on Broad Street, church leaders took pains to stress the guidelines they now have in place to handle sex abuse allegations.
"I can understand the complication of family members not reporting incidents of sexual abuse because it's very painful," Bishop Robert J. Baker said. "I think that people probably just need to be aware it's going on, it's happening, and unless people confront that realistically, as we have done, painful though it is, sexual abuse of minors will continue in our society."
The church-sanctioned report on the extent of the abuse problem was a major undertaking.
Coordinated by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, it was based on survey responses from 195 Roman Catholic dioceses and 142 religious communities across the country. All Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States were asked to comb through their records, and 97 percent responded, the study reported.
Church officials in South Carolina, including a former police officer, spent weeks last summer combing through boxes of personnel records, looking for evidence of any sex abuse allegations, said Maria Aselage, the diocese's spokeswoman.
Many of the cases already were well known to church officials and the public. The prosecution of two area priests -- Monsignor Frederick J. Hopwood and the Rev. Eugene Condon -- in the mid-1990s garnered heavy media coverage. Both received probationary sentences.
In the end, local researchers didn't uncover any new cases, said Al Payne, director of the diocese's child protective services program.
Their tally showed that the number of reported cases rose through the 1950s and '60s and peaked in the '70s, then began to drop.
Nationwide, the study found reports of abuse reached their apex with the ordination class of 1970, from which one in 10 priests eventually was accused of abuse.
The study found that most victims were male; of those, the largest single age group was boys 11 to 14. Alleged abuses ranged from touching, with or without clothing, to oral sex and sexual intercourse.
The report acknowledged that its figures depended on self-reporting by American bishops and were probably an undercount.
Robert Bennett, a Washington lawyer who chaired the National Review Board's "causes and context" study, told reporters in Washington that many dioceses and orders "simply did not screen candidates for the priesthood properly," allowing "many dysfunctional and psychosexually immature men" to be admitted.
Other seminarians "were not prepared for the challenges of the priesthood," including chastity and celibacy, in what he called "this hyper-sexualized American culture of the last few decades."
One lingering question is whether the problem of sexual abuse is worse in the Catholic church than the rest of the population.
Friday's report isn't likely to put that debate to rest, said Dr. Benjamin Saunders of the National Crime Victims Research Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Researchers don't know what percentage of the population has engaged in sex abuse because "there has been virtually no funding in the United States about this problem," he said.
He said the diocese's finding that 23 clergy had abused 45 children was probably low. The average sexual offender has seven victims, he said, adding that he has counseled a dozen victims of Catholic priests in Charleston and believes at least two priests molested or sexually touched "hundreds of kids."
Gregg Meyers, a Charleston attorney who represents seven victims of Catholic clergy and teachers, welcomed the report.
"The church for the first time has changed the centuries-old practice of concealment in favor of disclosure," he said.
He added, however, that diocese officials still fight "more often than not" when a victim makes an allegation, "even if they know for sure that there was abuse."
"It will be good when they take it completely seriously, not somewhat seriously," he said.
"We should be shocked, and we should be concerned" about the studies' findings, said Trisha Bennett of From Darkness to Light, a local anti-sex abuse group.
"The Catholic church certainly isn't the only place where (sex abuse) is happening, so this should be a call to action for everyone," she said.
Chuck Cusick, a member of Church of the Holy Spirit on Johns Island, said he was glad to see the church examine its problems.
"I think you have seen progress, and I think it will continue," he said. "I think it's going to be all right if they continue to ferret these people out."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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