Bishop Accountability
 
  ARCHDIOCESE OF PORTLAND OR

Accused Priests: 37
Total Priests: At least 1,150 (includes archdiocesan, extern, and order priests)
Persons Making Allegations: 181 (of which 40 alleged abuse by religious order and extern priests)
Cost: $53,000,000 for settlements (of which almost $48,000,000 for the 111 allegations against archdiocesan clergy, and $5,000,000 for allegations against religious order or extern priests with an archdiocesan ministry assignment
Sources of Funds: For settlements, almost $26,000,000 from the archdiocese, and $27,000,000 from insurers

Archbishop releases local data on misconduct cases

February 21, 2004

http://www.archdpdx.org/abuse-policy-revised/stats-report.html

Archbishop John G. Vlazny sent a letter to parishes for distribution to Catholics in Western Oregon providing information on the number of allegations against priests for misconduct involving minors since 1950, and on related costs incurred as a result of these allegations.

The Archbishop begins, "the Archdiocese of Portland has continued to work to ensure the safety of every child and young person in every Archdiocesan setting. We continue to implement safety and abuse prevention programs in our schools and parishes." He reminds parishioners that in September 2003 the Archdiocese of Portland participated in an audit of its policies and procedures regarding child abuse issues. The outside audit team reported directly to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' independent National Review Board. In January of this year, this Board reported that the Archdiocese of Portland is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons.

In reviewing the history of the past 53 years, 1950 through 2003, Archbishop Vlazny reported, "37 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor while working in an Archdiocesan ministry assignment. During those 53 years, there were at least 1150 priests serving in those Archdiocesan assignments. This number includes diocesan priests of this or another diocese, and religious order priests serving in a parish or other assigned ministry."

One hundred eighty-one persons made allegations. "This total of 181 includes all allegations made from 1950 through 2003, whether substantiated, credible, questionable or likely false. Seventy-six of the 181 allegations were made against the same 2 priests." Archbishop said, "The litigation in which the Archdiocese has been involved relates to incidents that allegedly occurred back as far as 1940." He also stated, "No Archdiocesan priest against whom an allegation of abuse has been made is serving in an Archdiocesan ministry."

In the 53 years from 1950 through 2003 the Archdiocese of Portland has paid "almost $26 million out of its own funds in settlements. Its insurers paid an additional $27 million. Most of the amount paid in settlements has been paid during the past four years." The funds for these settlements include: "insurance coverage provided by commercial insurance carriers, the Archdiocese Insurance Fund and other funds of the Archdiocese not held in charitable trust." The Archdiocese reduced staff and budgets at the Pastoral Center in addition to borrowing substantial sums of money to pay for these settlements.

Archbishop concludes his letter by stating, "I assure you once more of my commitment: to promote healing and reconciliation with the victims of child sexual abuse; to effectively respond to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Archdiocesan personnel; to ensure compliance with the procedures we bishops adopted in the Charter; and to protect the faithful in the future."

(A complete copy of Archbishop Vlazny's letter to parishioners is included below. Information on the results of the audit of the Archdiocese by the National Review Board on the Charter for the Protection for Children and Young People is available on our web site: www.archdpdx.org/abuse-policy-revised/charter-audit03.html).

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information, Contact:
Bud Bunce (503) 233-8373
bbunce@archdpdx.org

Letter from Archbishop Vlazny

February 17, 2004

Dear Friends in Christ,

In the last eight months since I communicated with you in this manner, the Archdiocese of Portland has continued to work hard to ensure the safety of every child and young person in every Archdiocesan setting. We continue to implement safety and abuse prevention programs in our schools and in our parishes. I am grateful to all of you who have cooperated in this endeavor. We are pleased that an audit conducted here in mid-September found the Archdiocese in full compliance with the 2002 Bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. A number of my weekly columns in the Catholic Sentinel have been devoted to pastoral concerns about child abuse and our efforts to keep our children safe. If you haven't had a chance to read these columns, I hope you will find time to check them out on the Archdiocesan website: www.archdpdx.org.

Even as we continue our work to prevent child abuse, we are still dealing with legal cases from decades past. We are making every effort to settle these cases and bring some measure of healing and closure, but much remains to be done. Today, I would like to bring you up to date in the same question and answer format many of you found helpful last year.

1. How many claims against the Archdiocese have been settled? How many are still pending?

Since I last wrote to you in June 2003, 25 more claims have been resolved. Most were mediated and settled by the parties; some were dismissed by the court.

Forty-eight claims are presently pending against the Archdiocese, alleging acts that occurred from 18 to 40 years ago. Forty of these were recently filed and are in early stages of information gathering. The other eight claims were not successfully mediated, so they have not been settled and are headed for trial. We are prepared to defend these cases vigorously, if need be. However, our efforts to resolve each case are ongoing. Again I assure you that I am committed to compensating each injured plaintiff fairly, within the limited resources of the Archdiocese.

2. Where did the settlement money come from?

To date we have funded settlements from a combination of sources: insurance coverage provided by commercial insurance carriers; the Archdiocesan Insurance Fund (which is now depleted and operating in the red); and other funds of the Archdiocese not held in charitable trust. To help provide settlement funds, we laid off 20 staff members and have instituted a number of cost cutting measures at the Pastoral Center. We are also borrowing substantial sums of money and pursing recovery of what is owed to the Archdiocese by insurance companies.

What we have not done, and what I cannot do, is fund settlements using parish assets or other assets held in charitable trust (e.g., Archbishop's Appeal funds, Priest Retirement funds, Catholic Education Endowment funds, and the like). It would be a violation of canon law to seize parish property or use trust funds. I do not intend to violate canon law.

I am still hopeful that we will be able to successfully move beyond this litigation. Much will depend on whether we can resolve the pending claims for reasonable amounts.

3. I heard about the Catholic Bishops Study. What is that and when will it be released?

In the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the bishops set up a National Review Board made up entirely of lay people. The bishops asked the Board to commission a study on the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy within the United States. The results of this study will be released next week. It will provide information on the number of clergy who have been accused of sexual abuse of minors, the number of persons making allegations and the financial costs of compensating individuals.

This study is extraordinary. No other organization or profession has done a comparable study. The bishops took this risk as a sign of their willingness to be accountable and to be sure that the steps being taken by each diocese are sufficient to overcome the problems of the past.

4. How does the situation in the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon compare with national results?

I do not know the results of the bishops' study at this time, but I can share some information concerning our own situation. Over the past 53 years, from 1950 through 2003, 37 priests have been accused of sexual misconduct with a minor while working in an Archdiocesan ministry assignment. During those 53 years, there were at least 1150 priests serving in those Archdiocesan assignments. This number includes diocesan priests of this or another diocese, and religious order priests serving in a parish or other assigned ministry.

One hundred eighty-one persons have made allegations against these 37 priests. This total of 181 includes all allegations made from 1950 through 2003, whether substantiated, credible, questionable or likely false. Seventy-six of the allegations were made against the same 2 priests. Over the last 53 years through the end of 2003, the Archdiocese has paid almost $26 million out of its own funds in settlements. Its insurers paid an additional $27 million. Most of the total amount paid in settlements has been paid during the last four years. As noted above, the Archdiocese is pursuing further recovery from insurance companies.

5. Why are the settlements so expensive?

We consider a number of factors in determining what would be a reasonable settlement amount in a particular case: the credibility of the claimant; the harm he or she suffered; whether the priest accused is alive and able to defend himself; and the legal and financial risks inherent in taking the case to trial.

The litigation in which the Archdiocese has been involved relates to incidents that allegedly occurred as far back as 1940. We are faced with great challenges in evaluating these claims. Most of the accused priests are dead or mentally unable to defend themselves. All of the Archbishops who supervised the accused are dead, as are other necessary witnesses. Documents which might shed light on the allegations, if there were any, are no longer available.

Another reason why settlements are so high is that Oregon law is very unfavorable to the Archdiocese in these cases. Oregon is the only state in which an employer may be held liable for alleged acts of child abuse in decades past, by a long deceased employee, based on the uncorroborated testimony of a plaintiff – even when there is no evidence that the employer knew or could have known of the misconduct alleged. Oregon law on the statute of limitations is also unique and very favorable to plaintiffs in these cases. Very old claims are allowed to be brought decades later.

Some of you have asked how we know the Archdiocese is not paying on any claims that are exaggerated or even false. We don't know – we can only do our best in a challenging legal situation.

6. Are there accused priests working in our parishes or other pastoral assignments?

No Archdiocesan priest against whom an allegation of abuse has been made is serving in an Archdiocesan ministry assignment.
_________________________

Whatever the national study may report about the number of victims and abusers among the tens of thousands of priests who have served in the last 50 years, one abuser and one victim are one too many. The care of young people is among the Church's most important obligations. I assure you once more of my commitment: to promote healing and reconciliation with victims of child sexual abuse; to effectively respond to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Archdiocesan personnel; to ensure compliance with the procedures we bishops adopted in the Charter; and to protect the faithful in the future. Please join me in these efforts and in praying for the protection of our archdiocesan church and for our success in resolving the remaining claims.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. John G. Vlazny
Archbishop of Portland in Oregon



National reports on sexual abuse by clergy released

February 26, 2004

http://www.archdpdx.org/newsrel/john-jay-reports.html

Archbishop John G. Vlazny recently issued a letter, which included data on sexual misconduct by priests in the Archdiocese of Portland from 1950 to 2003. Today, the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, released two reports on the problem of sexual abuse by Catholic clergy nationally. The John Jay College of Criminal Justice produced The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States. The second report was developed by the National Review Board, A Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States.

The John Jay study is a quantitative analysis of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy from 1950 to 2002. The Archdiocese of Portland participated in this study, as did 98% of all dioceses in the U.S. The study was requested by the Bishops' Conference to help the Church do a better job of protecting children and young people. This in-depth study has no counterpart in any other organization or profession.

The results of the John Jay study showed that 4,392 priests were named in allegations of sexual abuse in the 52 years covered by the research. Nationally there were 109,694 priests who served in ecclesiastical ministry in that time frame. The study reported, "the total cost paid by the church exceeds $500 million" in compensation to victims.

The Archdiocese of Portland reported that, from 1950 through 2003, 37 priests (diocesan, religious order and extern) were accused of sexual misconduct with a minor, while working in an Archdiocesan ministry assignment. There were 1150 priests and 44 deacons who served in Archdiocesan ministries in that 53-year period. One hundred and eighty-one persons made allegations against 37 priests. Forty of those allegations
were against religious order and extern priests, leaving 141 allegations against diocesan priests. The Archdiocese has resolved 111 claims of the 141 allegations against diocesan priests. The Archdiocese reported the total cost of settlements thus far was $53 million. Of this amount, almost $48 million was paid on the 111 allegations against diocesan clergy, and $5 million was paid to settle allegations against religious order or extern priests with an Archdiocesan ministry assignment.

The National Review Board study is a qualitative report based on interviews with 60 individuals, including bishops. The purpose of the Report was "to share the Review Board's findings and recommendations based upon its evaluation of the current crisis. The recommendations include "enhanced screening, formation and oversight of candidates for the priesthood; for increased sensitivity in responding to allegations of abuse; for greater accountability of bishops and Church leaders; for improved interaction with civil authorities; and for greater participation by the laity in the life of the Church."

In his letter to Catholic in Western Oregon Archbishop Vlazny stated, "I assure you once more of my commitment: to promote healing and reconciliation with the victims of child sexual abuse; to effectively respond to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Archdiocesan personnel; to ensure compliance with the procedures we bishops adopted in the Charter; and to protect the faithful in the future."

The Archdiocese of Portland participated in an audit by the National Review Board in September 2003. In January the Board reported that the Archdiocese is in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Information on that audit are available on the Archdiocesan web site:
www.archdpdx.org/abuse-policy-revised/charter-audit03.html. Archbishop Vlazny's letter about local data from 1950 – 2003 is found on the web page: www.archdpdx.org/abuse-policy-revised/stats-report.html. The John Jay study and the National Review Board Report are available on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops web site: www.usccb.org.

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For More Information, Contact:
Bud Bunce (503) 233-8373
bbunce@archdpdx.org


 

 
 

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