ARCHDIOCESE OF ST. LOUIS MO
"Even a single act of sexual abuse of a child by a member of the clergy is a grave evil," writes Archbishop Raymond L. Burke in his column on page 4 of today’s Review.
Archbishop Burke devotes this week’s column to a discussion of the release today, Feb. 27, of two documents on what he calls "the scandal of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy."
The documents are:
* National statistics on abuse from the U.S. bishops’ National Review Board, covering the period from 1950 through 2002. The figures were compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York from information submitted by most of the U.S. Catholic dioceses.
* The National Review Board’s companion study on the causes of sexual abuse, based primarily on personal interviews.
Archbishop Burke provides the statistics for the St. Louis Archdiocese in his column. From 1950 to 2002, 148 people alleged child sexual abuse by members of the clergy here, with allegations brought against 69 clergymen, out of a total of 1,210 diocesan priests and 313 permanent deacons. That is roughly 4.5 percent of all St. Louis clergy in that time period.
Four priests were exonerated, the Archbishop adds. Archbishop Burke also provides the cost of the sexual abuse cases to the archdiocese. From 1950 to 2002, $2,101,462 was spent "providing assistance to alleged victims ..."
The reports issued today go only through 2002. Based on information in its 2003 annual financial statement, the archdiocese spent an additional $1,076,838 in that year for assistance to victims, legal fees and counseling for clergy related to sexual abuse matters.
"The archdiocese has never paid money to a victim or alleged victim to obtain his or her silence about an allegation," the Archbishop stresses. "The giving of assistance does not constitute the admission that the alleged act of sexual abuse took place, or, if it did take place, that the archdiocese knowingly permitted it to happen.
"Rather, the archdiocese, with the help of professionals, studies the needs of the victim or alleged victim and, when appropriate, provides assistance," the Archbishop wrote.
Archbishop Burke, in his column, thanks his predecessor, Cardinal Justin Rigali, and the many members of his staff who helped develop "so thorough a response to the evil of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the archdiocese."
And, he tells readers, "I express my sincerest apology to those who have been abused by a member of the clergy or any other archdiocesan personnel."
For the complete text of Archbishop Burke’s column, see page 4.
Seventy priests working in the Archdiocese of St. Louis have been accused of sexually abusing 148 children since 1950, according to a report being released today by the archdiocese. Four of the priests were exonerated after their accusers withdrew the claims.
The number of priests accused of child sexual abuse is 5 percent, or one of every 20, of the 1,210 diocesan priests who served in the archdiocese during that period. By comparison, a report released Thursday by the Boston Archdiocese, the epicenter of the clergy abuse scandal that has rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, found that about 7 percent of the priests there have been accused of child sexual abuse.
Both reports are part of a larger study scheduled to be released today in Washington by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on reported clergy sexual misconduct from 1950 to 2002 in all of the nation's 195 Catholic dioceses and eparchies.
The study found that 4,392 of the 109,694 clergy -- 4 percent -- who served over that period, faced allegations of abuse, according to The Associated Press.
Dioceses nationwide received 10,667 abuse claims since 1950, according to the AP. Of those, claims by 6,700 were substantiated. About 3,300 were not investigated because the accused clergymen were dead. Another 1,000 or so claims proved to be unsubstantiated.
The AP also said the national report tallied abuse-related costs at $533.4 million.
St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke, in a column today in the diocese's newspaper, the St. Louis Review, cautions parishioners not to "view perpetrators and victims as numbers and, thereby, to distance ourselves from the grave evil of child sexual abuse by priests and deacons."
"What must be said from the start is that even a single act of sexual abuse of a child by a member of the clergy is a grave ill," he said. "Every reasonable means must be taken to avoid the commission of the crime of child sexual abuse by clergy, which violates a most sacred trust and can be the cause of profound and lasting harm to the victim."
The report was ordered by the National Review Board, a lay group established by the bishops' conference after the church was stunned by a series of allegations of sexual misconduct by priests throughout the nation in 2002.
Each diocese and religious institute was asked to respond to a questionnaire by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. The questionnaire asked dioceses to report the number of clergy accused of child sexual abuse, the number of clergy exonerated, the number of people who had brought allegations of child sexual abuse and the amount of money the diocese had spent addressing allegations of child sexual abuse by clergy.
In addition to the survey, a companion study being released today discusses how the abuse crisis developed.
That report places much of the blame on bishops, saying "moral laxity" in disciplining offenders created an atmosphere that allowed the crisis to occur, the AP reported, citing a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The report acknowledges 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, the source said.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis reported it spent $2.1 million in providing help to alleged victims of child sexual abuse. That figure was dramatically lower than the amounts paid by some other dioceses.
The Portland, Ore., diocese, for example, has said it spent $53 million to settle claims or provide assistance. The diocese in Dallas paid $47.7 million, the diocese in Bridgeport, Conn., paid $37.7 million, the diocese in Oakland, Calif., paid $7.8 million, according to The Associated Press.
The money paid by the archdiocese here did not include legal fees, said Jim Orso, spokesman for the diocese.
Additionally, "The archdiocese has never paid money to a victim or alleged victim to obtain his or her silence about an allegation," Burke wrote in his column. "Funds are provided to victims or alleged victims to assist with healing."
Burke said that the assistance did not necessarily mean that the diocese agreed that the abuse happened or that if it did the archdiocese knowingly permitted it to happen.
"Rather, the archdiocese, with the help of professionals, studies the needs of the victims or alleged victim and, when appropriate, provides assistance."
In an earlier report, the archdiocese said that it spent $3.2 million from 1994-2003 for assistance to victims of alleged child sexual abuse by clergy, legal fees and counseling for clergy related to sexual abuse of minors.
The new archdiocese report did not look at the roughly 350 area priests who belong to orders not under the auspices of the archdiocese.
Of the 66 St. Louis priests who were not exonerated of accusations of child sexual abuse, none are working in parishes, Orso said. They have either died, retired, left the active ministry or are being housed at a counseling facility.
One of the accused priests had been transferred to St. Louis from a diocese elsewhere, the archdiocese said.
Other area dioceses had already released reports.
The Diocese of Belleville reported 40 credible allegations of abuse of minors against 17 priests since 1950. The report said 46 people claimed to have been abused and that the diocese had removed 14 priests and one d eacon from ministry since 1993.
The Diocese of Springfield, Ill., which includes Madison County, had 43 credible allegations against 14 priests since 1950, according to an article published in its diocesan newspaper. On Jan. 31, the diocese reached a $3 million settlement with 28 victims and their families. The Diocese of Jefferson City had 69 direct allegations against 27 priests since the diocese was established in 1956, Bishop John R. Gaydos said in a Jan. 9 article in the diocesan newspaper. The article said the diocese had expenses of $1.5 million related to the cases but did not say how many priests had been removed from ministry.
"We are committed to the protection of children and young people and we will do everything we can toward this end," Gaydos said in the article.
The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Mo., has removed three priests because of allegations of abuse, Bishop John J. Leibrecht reported Jan. 9 in a diocesan newspaper column about the national report. He noted that the diocese made one financial settlement of $50,000 in 1994.
Representatives of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests question the accuracy of the study, which was based on a survey of the bishops.
"Anyway you look at this, it's a staggering toll of pain," said David Clohessy, national director of SNAP.
"It's a huge leap from a partial diagnosis to cure, and we ought not confuse the two. If you're diagnosed but you take no medicine and get no operation, that isn't progress. Whether good emerges from this is yet to be seen."
The clergy, the claims, the cost
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