DIOCESE OF VENICE FL
February 29, 2004
The exchange came as the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the bishops, issued two highly anticipated studies documenting the molestation problem from 1950 to 2002.
One report is the first church-sanctioned tally of abuse cases: It found there have been 10,667 abuse claims over those 52 years. More than 80 percent of the alleged victims were male and over half said they were between ages 11 and 14 when they were assaulted.
About 4 percent of all American clerics who served during the years studied — 4,392 of the 109,694 priests and others under vows to the church — were accused of abuse.
In Southwest Florida, five priests — less than 1 percent of the 626 priests who have served in the Diocese of Venice in the past 19 years — have been accused of sexual misconduct with minors, according to the the diocese.
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice conducted the tally of abuse claims for review board, receiving survey responses from 97 percent of the nation’s 195 dioceses, plus 142 religious communities, including Southwest Florida.
The Venice diocese ministers to 217,000 Catholics attending 54 churches in 10 counties, including Lee, Collier and Charlotte.
The John Jay report also calculated abuse-related costs such as litigation and counseling at $572 million, and noted that the figure does not cover settlements within the past year including $85 million in Boston.
Locally, the Venice diocese has spent more than $1.3 million in counseling, assistance and settlements for victims and an additional $325,800 in legal fees in the past 19 years.
The report on the causes of the crisis was based on interviews with clergy, victims, experts on sex offenders and others who have studied molestation.
In a statement released Friday, Bishop John J. Nevins of the Diocese of Venice called the report a “disturbing and sobering picture.’’
"These studies are providing a huge amount of data and will freshly open slowly healing wounds," he said. "Nevertheless, the data will help us to continue to take the steps needed to guarantee the protection of children, not only in our churches and schools, but everywhere in society where disturbed people would seek to do them harm."
Voice of the Faithful, a nationwide group that supports victims of abuse by priests, supports priests of integrity and advocates a greater role for the laity in the church, said the report fails to answer crucial questions — exactly who is responsible for covering up information pertaining to sexual offenders? Are guilty parties still in pastoral environments or positions of authority? Why has only one bishop resigned because of the cover up of the sexual abuse scandal?
The News-Press staff writer Wendy Fullerton contributed to this report.
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