Catholic Church Cites Progress on Abuse

By Michael Paulson
Boston Globe
March 13, 2009

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops today released its sixth annual report on how well dioceses are doing at complying with the child abuse prevention measures adopted by the bishops back in 2002. Almost all dioceses are complying, the bishops reported; one of the holdouts remains a Melkite (Eastern Rite) eparchy headquartered in Boston.

The bishops' conference also released an annual statistical snapshot of abuse-related matters, produced by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown. Some highlights:

"Last year, dioceses received ten new credible allegations of abuse to a person still under 18 years of age. CARA reported that in 2008, more old cases came to light as 620 victims made 625 allegations against 423 offenders. Most incidents took place decades ago, most frequently in the 1970-74 period. Most victims were male and a little more than half were between the ages of 10 and 14 when the abuse began. About 23 percent were younger than age 10.

About 83 percent of the offenders among diocesan clergy are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized or missing. About 60 percent of those identified offenders in new allegations in 2008 had been identified in previous allegations.

A total of 16 priests or deacons were returned to ministry in 2008 based on resolution of an allegation made during or prior to 2008.

Money expended in relation to the abuse crisis decreased, though it is still substantial.

'The total allegation-related expenditures by dioceses, eparchies, and clerical and mixed religious institutes decreased by 29 percent between 2007and 2008 after increasing in each of the previous three years,' CARA reported. Dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes paid a total of $374,408,554 in settlements."

The Archdiocese of Boston was found compliant with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People; I have a story in today's paper about the audit and a letter that Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley released declaring that the archdiocese is moving "beyond an atmosphere of crisis to one of implementation and vigilance" and revealing that he expects in the "very near future" to release some kind of list of accused priests -- a goal long sought by survivor groups. An excerpt from the cardinal's letter, which was addressed to the chairwoman of the Implementation and Oversight Advisory Committee:

"From the earliest days of the abuse crisis, we have understood the need to continuously evaluate and enhance our policies and practices for the protection of children...the Church must bear constantly in mind the paramount importance of assuring the protection of children. While much has been accomplished to date through your work, and that of many other good and devoted people, it would be a mistake to think that the Church in Boston is completely beyond this crisis. We must be ever vigilant for the protection of children in order to restore the confidence of the faithful in the Church and its institutions.''

O'Malley's characterization of the crisis was disputed by Mitchell Garabedian, an attorney for victims and a frequent critic of the archdiocese, who e-mails:

"I do not believe the Archdiocese is moving 'beyond an atmosphere of crisis to one of implementation and vigilance.' I have reported many incidents of clergy sexual abuse to the Archdiocese within the past year. Yet, the Archdiocese has carefully categorized abusive incidents so that that the Archdiocese can state that there has been only one report of clergy sexual abuse in a category. In doing so, the Archdiocese deceptively leaves the impression that no other clergy sexual abuse victims have recently come forward. Although the Archdiocese appears to have moved beyond an 'atmosphere of crisis,' it is deceptively leaving the clergy sexual abuse victims behind."


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