OF GALVESTON-HOUSTON TX
Accused Priests: 22 (not including 4 deacons)
Total Priests: 2,285 (658 diocesan and 1,627 religious, not including 410 permanent deacons)
Alleged Victims: 46
See Cathy Lynn Grossman, Survey: More Clergy Abuse Cases Than Previously Thought (2/10/04) with AP table of data for 74 dioceses.
See the Dallas Morning News database entry on Bishop Joseph Fiorenza and Coadjutor Bishop Daniel DiNardo. 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.
Letter By Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The January 9, 2004, issue of the Texas Catholic Herald reported the national audit of the dioceses of the United States on compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the United States Catholic Bishops in June, 2002. The Diocese of Galveston-Houston was audited from September 15-18, 2003, and I am pleased that we were in full compliance and received a commendation for having a sexual misconduct policy for clergy and lay personnel since October 1, 1990.
The audit report also took note of our efforts to implement the VIRTUS program, "Adults Protecting God's Children". All diocesan and parish personnel and volunteers are required to participate in this program. The Diocese does criminal background checks on all personnel and volunteers who have substantial contact with children and young people. Soon we will begin fingerprinting all clergy and lay personnel. We will continue our efforts to provide a safe environment in our parishes and schools and other institutions.
A Diocesan Review Board of highly qualified lay people has been established to assist me in evaluating allegations of sexual abuse of minors. The audit report was very pleased with the experience and professionalism of the members of this Board. A full copy of the report will be published in the next issue of the Texas Catholic Herald.
At this time I want to report to the Catholic people of our diocese the statistics we have provided to the John Jay College of Criminal Justice which has been commissioned by the United States Catholic Bishops to study the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy for the last 50 years. The Diocese of Galveston-Houston fully cooperated with this study which includes the years 1950-2003. Until 1966 the Diocese of Beaumont and several counties in the Dioceses of Victoria and Tyler were included in the Diocese of Galveston-Houston.
In the past 53 years 2,285 priests (658 diocesan and 1627 religious) and 410 permanent deacons have been assigned to the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. (The first class of permanent deacons was ordained in 1972.) Of this number there have been sustainable accusations against 22 priests, diocesan and religious, and 4 permanent deacons. This represents 0.96% of the priests and 0.98% of the permanent deacons. The priests involved have either died, resigned from the priesthood or have been removed from active priestly ministry. The four permanent deacons also are no longer in active diaconal ministry. As you can see, less than 1% of priests or permanent deacons of the Diocese of Galveston-Houston have sexually abused minors.
The number of known victims is 46. The abuse of 43 of the victims occurred before 1988. 80% of the abuses took place in the 50's, 60's and 70's, and were reported only in the past 10 years.
Clerical sexual abuse has cost the diocese $3.6 million, of that amount $1.8 million was covered by insurance and insurance reserves. No money has been taken from restricted or designated funds, or from the annual Diocesan Services Fund (DSF) or from the Diocesan Capital Campaign: Celebrating Our Faith, to pay this expense. Accumulated diocesan reserves were used for costs not covered by insurance. Included in the costs is counseling provided to victims and their families.
The report that I am giving to you is a very sad and tragic part of the 156 year history of our diocese. If there had been only one victim and one priest perpetrator to report, it would still be a horrible and shameful story. With the deepest sorrow in my heart, I apologize to all victims and their families for the pain and suffering they have endured from priests and permanent deacons, and I daily pray for their healing.
I want to assure you that the Diocese of Galveston-Houston is fully committed to preventing sexual abuse of minors by our clergy and lay personnel. We will cooperate with civil authorities, all organizations and institutions to eliminate this scourge from our society.
The overwhelming majority of our priests and permanent deacons are faithful servants of the gospel and dedicated ministers of the Church. As ministers of God's Word and Sacraments, they only want to serve your spiritual and religious needs. I know that you truly love and appreciate them and will not let the present crisis lessen your fidelity to God and the Church, or your respect for the priesthood and permanent diaconate.
During these difficult, trying and purifying times, let us pray that the Church will be more clearly seen as the sacrament of Christ in the world and His instrument of salvation.
Galveston-Houston diocese reports 46 abuse victims
Eighty percent of the abuse occurred before 1980 but was reported in the past 10 years. The confirmed sex abuse allegations cost the diocese $3.6 million in settlements, counseling and legal fees.
The numbers were released in a letter from Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza published in the recent edition of The Texas Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper.
"It is a very sad part of our history that I deeply regret," Fiorenza said Monday. "Even if it were just one person I would be very sad."
Diocese officials collected the numbers as part of a nationwide study meant to assess the scope of clergy sex abuse in the American church over the past five decades. The study is being conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City and will be released Feb. 27. It was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board.
Local bishops are not required to release their numbers, said William Burleigh, a retired journalist from Ohio who sits the board. He commended that they do so.
"The bishops are trying to be as open as and candid as possible," Burleigh said. "They know that when the national study is announced, there will be that obvious local question."
David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said Catholics should look at the numbers with "a great deal of skepticism," because they are self-reported, he said.
"This is not an investigation or a study," Clohessy said. "It is a survey done of the very same men who for the most part got us into this mess in the first place."
Miguel Prats, a co-founder of Houston SNAP, said he does not think Galveston-Houston has an egregious history of sex abuse. But he believes the reported numbers might be low because sex abuse victims do not always come forward. His group has heard from people who have not reported their complaints.
"We've talked to them," Prats said. "They will call us once or twice but they are scared. They are still living the fright they experienced 30, 40 or 50 years ago."
The Houston-Galveston figures count allegations considered credible after investigations. The bishop's letter did not mention how many unsubstantiated allegations had been made.
Fiorenza declined Monday to release the names of the priests and deacons who molested minors or provide details of where the incidents occurred. His letter said that the 22 priests had died, resigned from the priesthood or were removed from active ministry. The four deacons were also out of ministry.
Fiorenza's letter said the molesting priests made up 0.96 percent of the 2,285 priests -- including diocesan and religious order priests -- who have served the diocese since 1950. The four permanent deacons, ordained men who serve the church but are allowed to marry, account for 0.98 percent of the 410 deacons who have served since 1972.
Until 1966, the Diocese of Beaumont and counties in the dioceses of Victoria and Tyler were part of the Galveston-Houston diocese. They are included in the report.
Of the $3.6 million paid by the diocese, $1.8 million was covered by insurance and insurance reserves, Fiorenza's letter said.
The Dallas diocese is among those that have released numbers in advance. Forty-eight victims leveled credible allegations against 15 priests and one deacon, 1.4 percent of that diocese's clergy, the Dallas Morning News reported earlier this month. That diocese paid out $39.1 million, an amount that includes payments to multiple victims of former priest Rudy Kos, who is serving a life prison sentence for sexual abuse.
Bishop Daniel N. DiNardo, who will soon leave Sioux City, Iowa, to take on duties as coadjutor bishop in Galveston-Houston, reported his diocese had 33 allegations of abuse against 10 priests. The Sioux City Diocese paid $235,061 on settlements, treatment and counseling for victims and priests.
The Diocese of Orange County, Calif., released its statistical data earlier this month, along with the names of the priests accused of abuse during the past 30 years, said its spokesman, the Rev. Joe Fenton. Its report included 16 priests and 47 victims since the diocese's creation in 1976.
Knowing the numbers may help Catholics alarmed by the sex abuse scandal that became public in January 2002 with newspaper stories in Boston and spread throughout the country, said Ed Houser, a philosophy professor at the University of St. Thomas in Houston.
"This has been a public embarrassment and part of the process of getting over this is finding out what sort of problem this has been nationwide but also here," said Houser, who organized a series of panel discussions on the scandal at the Catholic university in 2002.
"These facts, of course, don't get to the underlying causes of the problem and I certainly hope that our bishop as well as the other bishops are trying to do something about the causes," Houser added.
Since the scandal became national news, American bishops have instituted rules to combat abuse and remove molesting priests from parishes. Earlier this month, the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection published a survey showing that most dioceses, including Galveston-Houston, were complying with the new rules.
Releasing the numbers does not mean that the problem can be shelved in the history category, Fiorenza said Monday.
"This is an ongoing effort," he said. "We can't say this is over. We have to continue with our very best efforts."
Chronicle reporter Andrew Tilghman contributed to this story.
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