The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Deacons, by Karen Terry et al., prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (Washington DC: USCCB, 2004)

This report was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and was based on surveys completed by the Catholic dioceses in the United States. The surveys provided information from diocesan files on each priest accused of sexual abuse and on each of the priest's victims. That information was filtered, so that the research team did not have access to the names of the accused priests or the dioceses where they worked. The report presents aggregate findings. The dioceses were encouraged to issue reports of their own based on the surveys that they had completed. has collected many of those diocesan John Jay reports.

This web version was prepared by from the revised PDFs of the John Jay report as posted on the USCCB website. Those revised PDFs reflect corrections made to the original PDFs as posted in haste on the website of the John Jay College, in time for the February 24, 2004 announcement of the results. See also the John Jay College research team's explanation of the hasty release of the report, and the analysis in America Magazine on March 22, 2004 of some errors in the original posting.

When the John Jay report was published as a book by the USCCB in June 2004, the volume contained the main report (which had been posted on the internet on February 27, 2004, and later was reposted in revised form) and a literature review (which had never been posted on the internet). In the table of contents below on this page, you will find links to all the chapters and appendices of the main report (in HTML form), as well as links to the chapters of the literature review (in PDF form). If you would prefer to download the main report and the literature review as two large PDF files, instead of many smaller ones, we provide that option as well:

John Jay Report (collection of the PDFs as revised by the John Jay team and posted on 4/16/04, plus the title and copyright page from the print edition; we used the posted PDFs instead of scanning from the print edition, because the posted PDFs are in color, whereas the printed report is in black and white)

Literature Review (scanned from the 6/04 print edition)

In the months before and after the release of the national John Jay report on February 27, 2004, many dioceses released their own reports at the urging of the USCCB. Those diocesan John Jay reports were based on the same questionnaires that the dioceses had completed and sent to the John Jay College for aggregation in the national study, but the diocesan reports varied considerably in their presentation of the survey results. Nevertheless, the diocesan reports are valuable because they offer a partial disaggregated view of the results that were aggregated in the national report. We collected the diocesan reports, and news articles about them, and have posted the collection in our library of diocesan John Jay reports. This is the best collection of diocesan reports available anywhere, but it is by no means complete. If you have a diocesan report that we do not, please email it to us or mail a copy to:
Attn: Diocesan John Jay Report Project
Box 541375
Waltham MA 02454-1375

In March 2006, the John Jay College research team released a Supplementary Data Analysis.

In Fall 2004, the USCCB approved a plan for the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) to develop a survey and collect data on allegations and abuse costs in each calendar year. As with the John Jay report, these diocesan results were aggregated and presented as national results. The aggregated results were published as a section of the Annual Report of the Implementation of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." These annual reports are important because they offer additions to the totals originally provided by the John Jay report. However, since the John Jay report covers the years 1950-2002, and the earliest annual report covers the year 2004, the allegations received and costs incurred during 2003 are nowhere tabulated. See CARA's annual reports for:
2004 (PDF pp. 12, 18-21, 34-47, no surveys provided)
2005 (PDF pp. 37-57, 57-60; i.e., Chapters 5 and 6, Appendices B and C [blank surveys])
2006 (PDF pp. 18-40, 46-49; i.e., Chapter 3, Appendices I and II [surveys populated with totals])
2007 (PDF pp. 34-56, 68-71; i.e., Chapter 4, Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals])
2008 (PDF pp. 35-57, 70-73; i.e., Chapter 4, Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals])
2009 (Chapter 4, Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals])
2010 (PDF pp. 30-52, 65-68, i.e., Chapter 4, Appendices B and C [surveys populated with totals])


The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests and Deacons

Note: Our HTML text of the report is presented here as a series of webpages:
Frontmatter, Executive Summary, Part 1, and Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

The following table of contents enables you to go directly to any section of the main report. If you wish to link directly to any section of the report, the URLs of the table of contents can be used for that purpose. It is also possible to link directly to any page of the report. Just use the URL of the part, and add the page number. For example:

We also provide a section-by-section table of contents to the sections of the Review of the Literature.





PART ONE: The mandate for the study

1.1 Introduction
1.2 Methodology: How the study was carried out
1.3 Study Terminology

PART TWO: Prevalence of abuse of youth under 18 by Catholic priest and deacons

2.1 Estimation of prevalence of sexual abuse of youth under 18 in the United States
2.2 Summary Results: Prevalence of sexual abuse of youth under 18 by Catholic priests and deacons
2.3 Detailed data on prevalence of sexual abuse of youth under 18 by Catholic priests

PART THREE: The priests and deacons accused of sexual abuse

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Summary results: Priest and deacons who have allegations of sexual abuse
3.3 Demographic characteristics of priests and deacons accused of sexual abuse of youths under 18
3.4 Priests with behavioral problems
3.5 Priests and deacons and the allegations
3.6 Serial abusers: Priests with multiple allegations
3.7 Criminal prosecutions and penalties

PART FOUR: Incidents and allegations of child sexual abuse

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Summary results: Characteristics of the incidents of alleged sexual abuse by priests
4.3 Characteristics of children who alleged sexual abuse by Catholic priests
4.4 Characteristics of acts of sexual abuse by Catholic priests
4.5 Circumstances of the abuse allegations

PART FIVE: The response from the dioceses and religious communities

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Reporting of allegations of sexual abuse
5.3 Responses to child sex abuse allegations by dioceses and religious communities
5.4 Sex offender treatment

PART SIX: Costs to dioceses and religious communities

6.1 Total Costs


A.1.1.1 Questions
A.1.1.2 Diocesan Profile
A.1.1.3 Religious Order Profile
A.1.1.4 Cleric Survey
A.1.1.5 Victim Survey
A.1.1.6 Written Instructions
A.1.1.7 Research Participation Statement
A.1.1.8 Request for Certificate of Confidentiality
A.1.2.1 Regions


by Karen J. Terry, Principal Investigator, and Jennifer Tallon, Primary Researcher

PART I: Literature Review

Estimates of Child Sexual Abuse [see more legible copies of Figures 1 and 2]
Theories and Etiology of Child Sexual Abuse by Males
Typologies of Child Sexual Abusers [see a more legible copy of Figure 3]
The Evaluation of Treatment Needs of Sexual Offenders
Models of Treatment for Offenders Who Abuse Children
Victims of Child Sexual Abuse by Priests

PART II: Annotated Bibliography

Estimating the Prevalence of Child Sexual Abuse
Estimates of Abuse within Specific Social Organizations
Theories of Sexual Offending
Typologies of the Sexual Offender
The Evaluation of Sexual Offenders
Models of Treatment for Offenders Who Abuse Children
Assessment of Sex Offender Treatment
Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse by Clerics


Preface and Acknowledgements

John Jay College of Criminal Justice was honored to have been asked by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to undertake the critically important task of obtaining a comprehensive description of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests. From the beginning, the College well understood its profound responsibility: to describe the dimensions of the abuse problem as accurately and completely as possible, to be scrupulously objective in carrying out the study, and to report the facts in an honest, forthright manner. The gravity of the assignment entrusted to the College cannot be over-estimated.

Some advised the College to reject the request to do the study: it was too controversial; it was too complicated; it could expose the College to lawsuits; and it could engender negative publicity. After listening carefully to this counsel, I came to the conclusion that despite the problems which might arise, the College had a civic obligation to use its resources and academic talent to help provide facts about the sexual abuse phenomenon which has been such a sad chapter in the history of the Catholic Church. Because it is a significant part of the College’s stated mission to engage in research dealing with public safety, I became convinced that we would be shirking our duty if we turned down the opportunity to do research on the victimization of children which hopefully will help protect them in years to come.

The administrators, faculty and students invited to participate in this endeavor shared my conviction. They committed themselves to making the study a high priority, to immersing themselves in the many tasks which had to be done, and to maintaining the highest level of professionalism in carrying out the sensitive mandate entrusted to us. This was a “fast-track” project, taking less than a year from start to finish, but the faculty nevertheless faithfully adhered to the established norms of research ethics at every step along the way.

The findings presented in this report are very disturbing. As we at John Jay College pored over the data, we were deeply moved by the recitation of the large numbers of offenses committed against children and the seriousness of their nature. But we are genuinely hopeful that out of this excruciating inquiry will emerge not only a better understanding of the abuse problem but a series of sensible, effective measures to reduce the possibility that other children will suffer the kinds of abuses which we have uncovered.

I would like to thank the many men and women of good will without whose cooperation this study would have been impossible to accomplish. I thank with special gratitude the many Catholic bishops across the country who provided us in record time the detailed, revealing data from their files. The remarkable 98% response rate which we obtained from the dioceses is virtually unheard of in social science research. The National Review Board, all of whose lay members have very demanding responsibilities, worked with us endlessly as we met the various challenges that confronted us on an almost daily basis. I must also acknowledge my deep appreciation of the efforts of Kathleen McChesney, [page 2 begins] Executive Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and her staff who repeatedly walked the extra mile to help us complete our assignment.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the staff at John Jay College who facilitated the work of the team doing the study. Everything including finding space for the project office, installation of computers, providing logistical support for meetings, and printing of this report in record time happened because many individuals pitched in. This was truly a collective endeavor of the College, and as President I would like to thank each and every person who contributed to this historic social science research project.

The data which John Jay College collected will provide the basis for the development of hypotheses and analyses which explain the causes of the distressing sexual abuse phenomenon presented in this report. Even more important, it is my fervent hope that the facts which the John Jay study presents will ultimately work to prevent recurrence of such victimization of children in the future.

Gerald W. Lynch
John Jay College of Criminal Justice [page 3 begins]



President of John Jay College of Criminal Justice for 28 years. He received his Ph.D. in clinical psychology in 1968 from New York University. He has been personally involved in many scholarly inquiries dealing with controversial topics, including casino gambling and policing in Northern Ireland. He is the editor of Human Dignity and the Police, a volume which describes and analyzes a program designed by Dr Lynch and others for training police officials about respecting the rights of citizens with whom they interact.

Dean of Graduate Studies and Research at John Jay College of Criminal Justice where he is also professor of government. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northwestern University in 1968. Prior to joining John Jay College in 1993, he was on the faculties of Michigan State University, the University of Oregon, and Brooklyn College of The City University of New York. He is the author of four books and fifty articles in the fields of criminal justice, criminology, and policy analysis.

Associate Professor in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the Deputy Executive Officer of the Doctoral Program in Criminal Justice, CUNY. She holds a doctorate in criminology from Cambridge University and she has several publications on sex offender treatment, management and supervision. She is also the Editor of the Sex Offender Law Report.

Trained as a criminologist at Rutgers School of Criminal Justice, Margaret Smith is a member of the Institute for Criminal Justice Ethics at John Jay College and the Coordinator of the Prisoners Self Help Legal Clinic in Newark, New Jersey.


Assistant Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She received a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and a M.A. in Religion from Fordham University in New York City. Dr. Galietta is a researcher and clinician specializing in the assessment and treatment of various offender groups.

Chair of the Psychology Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She received her law degree and her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona. Her research interests are in the intersection of psychology, gender, and law. Prior to graduate school, Dr. O’Connor worked for six years in the research and grants agencies of the U.S. Department of Justice, specializing in crime victim issues. [page 4 begins]

Distinguished Professor of Psychology at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He received his law degree and his doctorate from Harvard University. He was formerly Professor of Law and Psychology at the University of Nebraska, Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota and Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin. His primary area of research is legal decision making--with a particular emphasis on juries and eyewitness reliability, and he has over 100 book and journal publications.

Professor of Psychology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a Diplomate in Forensic Psychology, American Board of Professional Psychology. He received his doctorate from the New School of Social Research. Dr. Schlesinger's area of expertise is criminal psychopathology and sexually motivated antisocial acts, and he has published numerous articles, chapters, and eight books on the topic.


Sociologist and Co-Director of Masters of Science program in Forensic Computing at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Fred Palm
Professor in the School of Public Management, he has an MBA from Baruch College and previously served 25 years in the New York City Office of the Comptroller.

Chair of the English Department at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He was one of the editors of Criminal Justice Ethics from 1993-2002.


Stephanie Adduci
Frank Coffaro
Kristina Cummings
Dana Everly
Jeannine Goff
Subena Gustave
Michael Hayes
Jennifer Leconte
Jason Malone
Jennifer McCarthy
Matthew Opesso
Meredith Patten
Bonnie Starfield
Jennifer Tallon
Brenda Vollman
Sue-Lin Wong [page 5 begins]



The study of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons resulting in this report was authorized and paid for by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) pursuant to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Charter) unanimously adopted by the USCCB at its June 2002 meeting. The Charter called for many responses to this victimization of minors within the Catholic Church. Article 9 of the Charter provided for the creation of a lay body, the National Review Board, which was mandated (among other things) to commission a descriptive study of the nature and scope of the problem of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

Accordingly, the Board approached John Jay College of Criminal Justice to conduct such a study. The College assembled an experienced team of researchers with expertise in the areas of forensic psychology, criminology, and human behavior, and, working with the Board, formulated a methodology to address the study mandate. Data collection commenced in March 2003, and ended in February 2004. The information contained in this report is based upon surveys provided by 195 dioceses, representing 98% all diocesan priests in the United States, and 140 religious communities, representing approximately 60% of religious communities and 80% of all religious priests.

The mandate for the study was to:

1. Examine the number and nature of allegations of sexual abuse of minors under the age of 18 by Catholic priests between 1950 and 2002.

2. Collect information about the alleged abusers, including official status in the church, age, number of victims, responses by the church and legal authorities to the allegations of abuse, and other characteristics of the alleged abusers.

3. Collect information about the characteristics of the alleged victims, the nature of their relationship to the alleged abusers, the nature of the abuse, and the time frame within which the allegations are reported.

4. Accumulate information about the financial impact of the abuse on the Church.

Three surveys provide the data for this study:

1. A profile of each diocese, providing information about characteristics of the diocese including region and size, the total numbers of allegations, and the total expenditures occasioned by allegations of abuse.

2. A survey of church records relating to individual priests against whom allegations of abuse had been made.

3. A survey of church records relating to the alleged victims of abuse and the nature of the alleged abuse. Based upon the inquiries and communications that we received from the dioceses, eparchies and religious communities, it is our impression that, despite the complexity of [page 6 begins] the surveys and the difficulties of identifying relevant church records, these data reflect a conscientious and good-faith effort to provide exhaustive and reliable information regarding allegations of abuse made to church authorities.

Due to the sensitive nature of the abuse allegations, which form the core of this report, many steps were taken to assure the anonymity of alleged victims and priests who were the subjects of the study. The study used a double-blind procedure in which all reports were first sent to Ernst & Young, an accounting firm, where they were stripped of information that could be used to identify the area from which they were sent. Ernst & Young then sent the unopened envelopes containing survey responses to the John Jay researchers. The data set is thus stripped of all identifying information that may be linked to an individual diocese, eparchy or religious community, priest or victim.



• Priest surveys asked for birth dates and initials of the accused priests in order to determine if a single priest had allegations in multiple dioceses, eparchies or religious communities. To maintain anonymity, this information was encrypted into a unique identifying number, and birthdays and initials were then discarded. We detected 310 matching encrypted numbers, accounting for 143 priests with allegations in more than one diocese, eparchy or religious community (3.3% of the total number of priests with allegations). When we removed the replicated files of priests who have allegations in more than one place, we received allegations of sexual abuse against a total of 4,392 priests that were not withdrawn or known to be false for the period 1950-2002.

• The total number of priests with allegations of abuse in our survey is 4,392. The percentage of all priests with allegations of sexual abuse is difficult to derive because there is no definitive number of priests who were active between the years of 1950 and 2002. We used two sets of numbers to estimate the total number of active priests and then calculated the percentage against whom allegations were made.

• We asked each diocese, eparchy and community for their total number of active priests in this time period. Adding up all their responses, there were 109,694 priests reported by dioceses, eparchies and religious communities to have served in their ecclesiastical ministry from 1950-2002. Using this number, 4.0% of all priests active between 1950 and 2002 had allegations of abuse.

• The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) reports a total of 94,607 priests for the period 1960-2002. When we look at the time period covered by the CARA database, the number of priests with allegations of sexual abuse is 4,127. Thus, the percentage of priests [page 7 begins] accused for this time period is 4.3% if we rely on the CARA figures assessing the total number of priests.

• If we examine the differences between diocesan and religious priests, then our numbers result in a total of 4.3% of diocesan priests with allegations of abuse and 2.5% of religious priests with allegations of abuse. The CARA numbers yield a total of 5% of diocesan priests from 1960-1996 with allegations of abuse and 2.7% of religious priests from 1960-1996 with allegations of abuse.

• Our analyses revealed little variability in the rates of alleged abuse across regions of the Catholic Church in the U.S.—the range was from 3% to 6% of priests.

• A total of 10,667 individuals made allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Of those who alleged abuse, the file contained information that 17.2% of them had siblings who were also allegedly abused.

• It is impossible to determine from our surveys what percent of all actual cases of abuse that occurred between 1950 and 2002 have been reported to the Church and are therefore in our dataset. Allegations of child sexual abuse are made gradually over an extended time period and it is likely that further allegations will be made with respect to recent time periods covered in our surveys. Less than 13% of allegations were made in the year in which the abuse allegedly began, and more than 25% of the allegations were made more than 30 years after the alleged abuse began.


• The distribution of reported cases by the year the abuse is alleged to have occurred or begun shows a peak in the year 1970. However, considering the duration of some repeated abusive acts, more abuse occurred in the 1970s than any other decade, peaking in 1980. But, these conclusions have to be qualified because additional allegations for those time periods may surface in the future.

• Alleged abuse sometimes extended over many years. In 38.4% of allegations, the abuse is alleged to have occurred within a single year, in 21.8% the alleged abuse lasted more than a year but less than 2 years, in 28% between 2 and 4 years, in 10.2% between 5 and 9 years and, in under 1%, 10 or more years.

• Approximately one-third of all allegations were reported in 2002-2003, and two-thirds have been made since 1993. Thus, prior to 1993, only one-third of cases were known to Church officials. The allegations made in 1993 and 2002-2003 include offenses that allegedly occurred within the full time period from 1950-1993 and 1950-2002. The distribution of allegations made in 2002-2003 resembles the distribution of offenses alleged at all other time periods—with the exception that allegations of abuse in recent years are a smaller share of all allegations. [page 8 begins]


• The amount of money already paid by the Church, as a result of allegations, to victims, for the treatment of priests and for legal expenses reported in our surveys was $472,000,000. That figure is not the total paid by the Church to date—14% of dioceses and religious communities did not report dollar figures. In addition, survey responses were filed over a 10-month period and would not include settlements and expenses incurred after surveys were submitted. In addition, no diocese reported the recent and highly publicized $85,000,000 settlement. If we include the $85,000,000 reported settlement, the total cost paid by the church exceeds $500,000,000.



• The majority of priests with allegations of abuse were ordained between 1950 and 1979 (68%). Priests ordained prior to 1950 accounted for 21.3% of the allegations, and priests ordained after 1979 accounted for 10.7% of allegations.

• Over 79% of these priests were between 25 and 29 years of age when ordained. For priests whose age at the time of the first alleged abuse was reported, the largest group—over 40%[—]was between 30 and 39. An additional 20% were under age 30, nearly 23% were between 40 and 49, and nearly 17% were over 50.

• At the time abuse is alleged to have occurred, 42.3% of priests were associate pastors, 25.1% were pastors, 10.4% were resident priests and 7.2% were teachers. Other categories (e.g., chaplain, deacon, and seminary administrator) were under 3% each.

• The majority of priests (56%) were alleged to have abused one victim, nearly 27% were alleged to have abused two or three victims, nearly 14% were alleged to have abused four to nine victims and 3.4% were alleged to have abused more than ten victims. The 149 priests (3.5%) who had more than ten allegations of abuse were allegedly responsible for abusing 2,960 victims, thus accounting for 26% of allegations. Therefore, a very small percentage of accused priests are responsible for a substantial percentage of the allegations.

• Though priests’ personnel files contain limited information on their own childhood victimization and their substance and/or alcohol abuse problems, the surveys report that nearly 7% of priests had been physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused as children. The surveys also indicate that nearly 17% had alcohol or substance abuse problems. There are indications that some sort of intervention was undertaken by church authorities in over 80% of the cases involving substance abuse. [page 9 begins]

• The surveys indicate that 32% of priests who were subject to allegations of sexual abuse were also recognized as having other behavioral or psychological problems.


• The largest group of alleged victims (50.9%) was between the ages of 11 and 14, 27.3% were 15-17, 16% were 8-10 and nearly 6% were under age 7. Overall, 81% of victims were male and 19% female. Male victims tended to be older than female victims. Over 40% of all victims were males between the ages of 11 and 14.

• Of the total number accused, 37% of priests with allegations of sexual abuse participated in treatment programs; the most common treatment programs were sex-offender specific treatment programs specifically for clergy and one-on-one psychological counseling. The more allegations a priest had, the more likely he was to participate in treatment. However, the severity of the alleged offense did not have an effect on whether or not a priest participated in a treatment program. Those who allegedly committed acts of penetration or oral sex were no more likely to participate in treatment than priests accused of less severe offenses.

• Priests allegedly committed acts which were classified into more than 20 categories. The most frequent acts allegedly committed were: touching over the victim’s clothing (52.6%), touching under the victim's clothes (44.9%), cleric performing oral sex (26%), victim disrobed (25.7%), and penile penetration or attempted penile penetration (22.4%). Many of the abusers were alleged to have committed multiple types of abuse against individual victims, and relatively few priests committed only the most minor acts. Of the 90% of the reported incidents for which we had specific offense details, 141 incidents, or one and one half percent, were reported that included only verbal abuse and/or the use of pornography.

• The alleged abuse occurred in a variety of locations. The abuse is alleged to have occurred in the following locations: in the priest’s home or the parish residence (40.9%), in the church (16.3%), in the victim’s home (12.4%), in a vacation house (10.3%), in school (10.3%), and in a car (9.8%). The abuse allegedly occurred in other sites, such as church outings or in a hotel room, in less than 10% of the allegations. The most common event or setting in which the abuse occurred was during a social event (20.4%), while visiting or working at the priest’s home (14.7%), and during travel (17.8%). Abuse allegedly occurred in other settings, such as during counseling, school hours, and sporting events, in less than 10% of the allegations. [page 10 begins]

• In the 51% of cases where information was provided, half of the victims who made allegations of sexual abuse (2,638, or 25.7% of all alleged victims) socialized with the priest outside of church. Of those who did socialize with the priests who allegedly abused them, the majority had interactions in the family’s home. Other places of socialization included in the church, in the residence of the priest, and in various church activities.


• To date, the police have been contacted about 1,021 priests with allegations of abuse, or 24% of our total. Nearly all of these reports have led to investigations, and 384 instances have led to criminal charges. Of those priests for whom information about dispositions is available, 252 were convicted and at least 100 of those served time in prison. Thus, 6% of all priests against whom allegations were made were convicted and about 2% received prison sentences to date.

• Half of the allegations that were made (49.9%) were reported by the victim. In one-fifth of the cases (20.3%), the allegation of sexual abuse was made by the alleged victim’s attorney. The third most common way in which the abuse was reported was by the parent or guardian of the victim (13.6%). Allegations made by other individuals, such as by a police officer, a sibling, or another priest, occurred in 3% of cases or less. These allegations were most commonly made by calling the diocese (30.2%), in a signed letter to the diocese (22.8%), or in a legal filing (10.5%). All other methods by which the allegations were made, such as in person, by telling a trusted priest, or through the media, occurred in less than 10% of cases. Cases reported in 2002 had a similar distribution of types of reporting as in previous years. The full report contains more detailed and additional analyses related to the information provided above. This report is descriptive in nature. Future reports will examine the relationships among the variables described here in more detail and will be multivariate and analytic in nature. [page 11 begins]




In June 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) met in Dallas, Texas, and promulgated the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, in order to address the problem of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests. This Charter included a commitment to provide a thorough accounting of the nature and scope of the problem within the Catholic Church in the United States. Through the Charter, the USCCB formed two entities to address the problem of child sexual abuse in the Church: a group of lay Catholics who would comprise the National Review Board and the Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP), led by Kathleen McChesney, who served as executive director. The two groups would share a mandate to investigate and review the prevalence of sexual abuse in the Church, the causes of the abuse, and the procedures for responding to clergy who have been accused of abuse.

To carry out this mandate, the USCCB Charter indicated that two studies would be conducted -- the first to describe the nature and scope of the problem and the second to examine its causes and context. This first study, entitled, “The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Children by Catholic Priests and Deacons within the United States,” was commissioned by the National Review Board and funded by the USCCB. The objectives of this study were to collect, organize, and summarize information available in Church files about the sexual abuse of minors (children under 18 years of age) by priests and deacons in the Catholic Church of the United States from 1950 through 2002. Specifically, Article 9 of the Charter states:

The work of the Office for Child and Youth Protection will be assisted and monitored by a Review Board, including parents, appointed by the Conference President and reporting directly to him. The Board will approve the annual report of the implementation of this Charter in each of our dioceses/eparchies, as well as any recommendations that emerge from this review, before the report is submitted to the President of the Conference and published. To understand the problem more fully and to enhance the effectiveness of our future response, the National Review Board will also commission a descriptive study, with the full cooperation of our dioceses/eparchies, of the nature and scope of the problem within the Catholic Church in the United States, including such data as statistics on perpetrators and victims.

In December 2002, Kathleen McChesney, Director of the OCYP, approached the president of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Gerald Lynch, Ph.D., to discuss the feasibility of the college conducting the first of the two mandated studies, as established by the Charter. The college was selected because it is a secular institution, with a national reputation in the fields of criminal justice, criminology, and forensic psychology. President Lynch convened a group of faculty with relevant expertise who met with Kathleen McChesney and representatives of the USCCB to discuss the framework for the study on the nature and scope of child sexual abuse by priests in the Catholic Church. After a number of discussions, a contract was signed by USCCB and the Research Foundation of the City University of New York on behalf of John Jay College to conduct the study. Funding for the study was [page 12 begins] provided by the USCCB, with oversight by the National Review Board. The overall purpose of the study was to provide the first-ever, complete accounting, or census, of the number of priests against whom allegations of child sexual abuse were made and of the incidents alleged to have occurred between 1950 and 2002.

To guide the study, Kathleen McChesney, on behalf of the USCCB, gave the College a specific set of questions to be answered, which defined the scope of the study. The questions focused on four specific areas of concern (see Appendix A.1.1.1 for a complete list of the questions). The first category involved information about the alleged offenses themselves (e.g., the number of allegations, the location in which the behavior is alleged to have occurred). Information about the priests against whom allegations were made was the focus of the second category of questions. These included questions about the age, status and duties at the time of the alleged offense, background information about the priest, whether the Church took action in response to the allegation, and what form that response took. The third category focused on information about those who made the accusations (e.g., their age at the time of the offense, their gender, the time between the offense and the report). Finally, information about the financial impact of these allegations on the dioceses and religious communities was requested.

In response to this mandate, a team of criminologists, forensic psychologists, and methodologists drawn from the John Jay faculty John [sic] developed three data collection instruments, or surveys (see Appendices A.1.1.2 – 5). The surveys were pre-tested, revised, and distributed to each of the 202 United States dioceses and eparchies (i.e. Eastern Church dioceses). The Catholic Church in the United States also includes 221 religious orders of men, formally called Religious Institutes of Men. Many of these groups are divided into provinces and include autonomous cloistered communities, monasteries or abbeys. The major superiors, leaders of the religious institutes, agreed to participate and sent the survey materials to the individual provinces or communities, where files on individual priests are kept. As a result, survey responses were submitted by three different types of religious communities: by religious institutes; by provinces of religious institutes; and by autonomous monasteries or abbeys. In this report, all three kinds of communities will be referred to as religious communities, to be understood in contrast to the dioceses and eparchies.

The John Jay College faculty developed detailed procedures to ensure complete confidentiality of the survey responders, which are discussed in chapter 1.2 (see also Appendices A.1.1.6 – 7). The faculty worked with the USCCB to maximize compliance with the survey by actively responding to questions and developing procedures to ensure that state-level confidentiality laws were not violated by any institution participating in the study. Surveys were returned by 195 of the 202 dioceses and eparchies, which constitutes a 97% compliance rate. Surveys were returned by approximately 60% of religious communities representing 80% of the religious priests in the United States.

The remainder of this report will describe in detail the findings of the study. The next sections of Part One explain in detail the methodology used in this study, the limitations of the study design, and the terminology used. Part Two presents an overview of the findings about the overall number and distribution of allegations. Part Three focuses on the characteristics of the accused priests themselves and Part Four provides details about and circumstances of the allegations. [page 13 begins]

Parts Five and Six discuss the reporting of these allegations and the actions taken by the dioceses and religious communities. Each Part begins by introducing the research context for the understanding the data and continues with a summary of the findings and subchapters that give detailed tables of data. Appendices to each Part contain additional statistical information.

In presenting these findings in as clear, objective, and comprehensive manner as possible, it is the hope of the study team that an accounting of the scope of the problem over the last 50 years will ground future research and reform efforts. [pagination error – page 13_2 begins]


The specific research questions posed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) (see Appendix A1.1.1) required a careful and thorough accounting at the national level of the number of priests against whom allegations of child sexual abuse had been made as well as the number of overall allegations that had come to the attention of the Church over the last 50 years. The study team had a unique opportunity to solicit this information from all 202 dioceses and 221 religious institutes, together comprising the population of Catholic priests in the United States. The study had the full backing of the USCCB to ensure, to the greatest extent possible, full cooperation from all levels of church hierarchy throughout the country.


It was clear from the outset that the study team would not itself have access to the confidential Church files, nor did we have sufficient time to conduct a study that would reach all 50 states including every diocese and religious community within the United States, and cover a 52-year timeframe. Given this framework, the research team decided to collect the data necessary by constructing survey instruments and mailing them to each diocese, eparchy and religious institute in the country. Such a population-based survey approach provided the optimum strategy for fulfilling the mandate of the study to produce as complete a census as possible of the scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church. Additionally, such an approach could make a significant contribution to the literature on child sexual abuse since no previous population-based research had been conducted. While research on child sexual abuse in the general population by professionals and academic researchers is substantial, there has been, to date, no population-based research on the characteristics or patterns of behavior of sexual abuse in any single population. The information that was previously available on child sexual in the Catholic Church had been obtained from small samples, largely clinical samples, focused on a specific sub-population (e.g., one parish or diocese) or taken from public records. Therefore, it was our hope that by taking this approach, we would both fulfill the mandate of the Charter and make a significant contribution to this important literature.


As with any study, the questions to be answered drove the construction of the survey instruments. The study mandate suggested that we needed to address three specific targets: the dioceses/eparchies/religious communities, the priests against whom allegations had been made, and the incidents described in those allegations. Thus, each diocese, eparchy or religious community would complete one survey focused on their institution as a whole, one survey for each priest against whom allegation(s) of abuse had been made, and one survey for each alleged incident(s) of abuse connected with each priest. As a result we were able to construct three separate surveys, which taken together, provided a more comprehensive assessment of the scope of the problem. [page 14 begins]

The Diocesan Profile. The first survey was the “Diocesan/Order Profile” (Appendices A.1.1.2 and A.1.1.3). The aim of this survey was to establish aggregate numbers for the particular diocese/eparchy or religious community – the number of priests against whom allegations had been made and the total number of individuals making allegations. We were able to obtain a census of active and retired priests in the diocese/eparchy/religious community during the study period, 1950 – 2002. The survey consisted of ten questions, half of which provided us with demographic information about the units, and the other half, a profile of the scope of the problem within that unit. Dioceses and eparchies were asked to indicate the church region, the Catholic population, and the number of parishes within their boundaries. Religious communities were asked for the total number of members in the community. Because survey responses contained no identifying information (see our discussion of confidentiality issues later in this section), the broad demographic characteristics, presented in deciles, assisted us in evaluating the survey response rate. The survey then asked for a global number, based on the review of the church records, of the number of priests against whom allegations of abuse had been made and, of those, how many had been completely exonerated. It also requested the total number of individuals who made the allegations and asked specifically for the number of those allegations that had been shown to be false or that had been withdrawn. These unfounded or withdrawn allegations were not included in any further reporting.

The Cleric Survey. The second survey sent to study respondents was the “Cleric Survey” (Appendix A.1.1.4). This instrument included 17 questions, with 18 follow-up questions, and focused on individual priests. It was to be completed from existing files and records for each and every priest who had been named in a complaint or allegation of sexual abuse of a minor that was known to a diocese, eparchy or religious community. We were seeking answers to several types of questions in this survey. First, we wanted information related to the history of the individual priest who was accused of abuse, including specifications of the seminary he attended and the history of where he ministered in the Catholic Church (e.g., whether the priest had been transferred within or between dioceses). The relevant history also included information from the file concerning whether he himself had been abused and whether he had a known substance abuse problem or other medical/psychological conditions. The next set of questions related to the individuals who had made allegations against this particular priest, including their number, their age(s) and gender(s). The final section of the “Cleric Survey” focused on the actions taken by the Church in response to the allegations of abuse against this particular priest. These questions focused on the action taken by the church in response to the allegation (e.g., whether the priest was reprimanded, referred for treatment, or removed from duty). They also asked more specifically whether the priest participated in and/or completed any type of treatment, and the years in which those interventions would have occurred. The responses to the three sets of questions in this survey thus provided information on the scope and nature of the problem, information about those against whom allegations were made, and information about the church’s response to the alleged offenses.

The Victim Survey. The third survey, titled the “Victim Survey,” focused on incidents of alleged abuse. The aim of this survey was to capture information about each allegation that was made against a particular priest (Appendix A.1.1.5). In other words, for every priest against whom allegations were made, a separate and unique third survey was completed for each one of the alleged incidents. So, for example, if the “Cleric Survey” indicated that this particular priest had [page 15 begins] five allegations made against him, then five incident surveys would have been completed and submitted as part of the package of material on that particular priest. Surveys were neither requested nor submitted for those allegations that had been shown to be false or were withdrawn, or those for which the priest had been exonerated. This survey included 36 questions, with 18 follow-up questions. Like the “Cleric Survey,” it was to be completed based on the information about the victim in the alleged abuser’s file.

This incident survey was divided into two sections. The first section of the survey sought basic information on the person who brought an allegation against this particular priest [1; notes are collected in a note section at the end of this Web version; after clicking the number to view the note, click Back to return to this point in the text of the report], and about the incident or incidents themselves. This included information on the individual’s gender; age at both the time of offense and time the offense was reported; method by which the allegation and follow-ups to the allegation were made; timeframe and type of alleged incident(s); threats, gifts, or enticements used to coax or coerce the individual into participating in sexual conduct and action(s) taken by the Catholic institution and/or civil authorities as a result of the incident(s). The second part of the survey sought information on the financial impact of the incident or incidents of alleged abuse reported in the preceding section. These questions asked about monies paid for treatment of both the victim and the priest, legal fees associated with the incident(s), and overall compensation to the accuser.

Pilot Testing of Surveys. During the development of the survey instruments, in February and March 2003, the research team consulted with many individuals associated with the Church, including members of the National Review Board, the Office of Child and Youth Protection, as well as numerous diocesan and religious priests who agreed to provide feedback to us on the content and wording of the survey instruments. Numerous meetings were held in which terminology categories of responses were refined, e.g., types of responses a diocese might have taken and manners in which allegations might have come to the Church’s attention.

A formal pre-test was also conducted in one diocese. For this pre-test, a high-ranking official within the diocese, at the direction of the presiding bishop, completed the draft survey instruments using actual data from diocesan files, and provided detailed comments to the principal investigator about their content, readability and accessibility. These comments and suggestions were used to refine the study instruments.


In April 2003, a package containing one copy of each of the three separate survey instruments was sent to all 202 dioceses and eparchies in the United States. Prior to that mailing, a letter was sent to all dioceses and eparchies from Bishop Gregory, President of the USCCB, alerting bishops to the study, reminding them of the mandate to comply with the study as stated in the Charter, and requesting full compliance with it.

Unlike the dioceses and eparchies, whose participation was mandated by the Charter, the religious communities of men were invited to participate in the study. When their agreement was given in June 2003, the survey materials were sent to the 140 religious institutes of men in the United States. These religious orders then distributed the surveys to their provinces and autonomous monasteries or abbeys. The organization of religious communities is such that the [page 16 begins] files with the information being sought for the study were held in the provinces and autonomous communities of many religious orders, rather than at their central offices, so this second level of distribution by the religious institute was required.

Reliability of Data. With so many separate entities within the Catholic Church in the United States preparing to complete the surveys, a number of affirmative steps were taken to maximize the reliability and consistency of the data. First, the surveys were mailed to each diocese, eparchy and religious community with a packet of information that included two forms of instruction - written instructions (see Appendix A.1.1.6) and, a videotape with detailed instructions about how to fill out the surveys, how to handle the process of mailing the surveys once they were completed, and how to obtain additional guidance and information if needed during survey completion. Second, the research team provided anonymous telephone and email support five days a week from 10 am to 6 pm, adding an 800 number during the summer months. A number of research assistants were specially trained to answer the telephone and to keep a log of all calls, each of which was reviewed by a member of the study team. Notes were kept on the caller questions, and written responses were regularly updated. Third, as the volume of calls grew during the summer and a pattern of questions was discerned, a highly secure website with answers to frequently asked questions [2] was made available in July 2003. The telephone, email and web site support was continued throughout the study period until February 2004. Fourth, members of the John Jay College research team attended the biannual meeting of the USCCB in St. Louis to meet with the bishops and answer any questions they had about the study. And, finally, the structure of the survey instruments themselves assisted in ensuring reliability. The three surveys employed multiple measures of the same information, thus providing additional internal reliability checks for the results. [3]

Survey Responses. The data collection process lasted approximately eleven months. At first, many bishops and religious superiors had reservations about the study, and some explicitly opposed it. Through discussion, consultation, and the exchange of questions and responses, the research team was able to resolve the concerns of most of the bishops and major superiors, especially their worries about concealing the identities of accused priests. Because all states present unique legal issues, the research team also worked with diocesan attorneys around the country to reduce their concerns and to ensure that the data collection process would not affect pending or potential law suits involving the Catholic Church. [4] Ultimately, 97% of the dioceses and eparchies returned the surveys, an extraordinarily high response rate for any type of survey research, though perhaps not surprising given the mandate from the Charter and the significant efforts made by all parties to guarantee confidentiality and alleviate concerns. In general, the surveys were complete and showed careful attention to detail, as indicated by the many specific comments provided in the surveys. There was not, however, uniformity in terms of the amount of support, staff and resources that were available around the country, and so the responses did vary in terms of completeness and level of detail provided.

Data Entry. All aspects of data coding, entry, and analysis were directed by a data analyst, working in consultation with the study’s principal investigator. Actual coding and data entry were done by 16 research assistants. All research assistants were thoroughly trained by both the principal investigator and data analyst, not only in the specific procedures for dealing with the survey data, but, most importantly, to equip them to understand the importance of the study’s [page 17 begins] complex confidentiality provisions. All study materials and documents were recorded when they were received by John Jay College during the entire study period. Information from the surveys was recorded in files using both statistical and database software.


Ensuring the confidentiality of individuals mentioned in the Church’s files was an important element that influenced the design of the study and, ultimately, allowed dioceses and religious communities to participate fully in the study. The research team was concerned about the confidentiality of and risks to those individuals who reported sexual abuse; their friends and family members; priests and deacons against whom allegations had been made; Church employees and the dioceses and religious institutes themselves. A number of steps were taken to ensure confidentiality. The first decision was that no one on the John Jay College team would have direct contact with the files or records that were the property of the Church. The only persons who had any direct contact with the Catholic Church files used to complete the survey instruments were those persons designated by their bishop or major superior.

Secondly, the study team put into place complex procedures to ensure that no identifying information about any individual who made an allegation of abuse, any priest against whom an allegation had been made, nor any individual diocese, eparchy or religious community would be included on any study materials that came to John Jay College.

Our files contain no personal identifying information beyond age at the time of the alleged incident and gender for those persons who made allegations of abuse against priests. The information for the surveys was taken from existing files, so no new contact was initiated with any person who reported abuse by a priest or any member of his or her family.

With respect to the priests against whom allegations had been made, a challenge arose because one interest of the USCCB was to determine whether individual priests had allegations of child sexual abuse in more than one diocese, eparchy or religious community. In order to answer this question, the researchers needed to be able to give a unique identifying number to each priest, which would then permit us to track information about him from more than one diocese. To do this accurately the researchers needed to collect, at a minimum, the initials and date of birth of each priest who had been the subject of an allegation.

Given this necessity, the following steps were taken to protect the confidentiality of each priest and his community:

1. No survey, nor any study communication of any kind bearing a postmark, was sent directly to John Jay College from any Catholic Church group. An independent auditor, a certified public accountant at a nationally known accounting firm, was designated to receive all communications from Catholic Church representatives. [page 18 begins]

2. Clear instructions were provided to respondents that all completed survey instruments were to be placed in blank envelopes that were then sealed. Those sealed, blank envelopes were then placed in another envelope or box with a piece of diocesan or religious community stationary and sent to the auditor. When these packages were received by the auditor, the outer envelope and the letterhead were used to make a record of the sender, for purposes of response rate calculation only. A random code number was then assigned to each respondent unit of the Catholic Church. The codes were recorded on the blank envelopes, and the materials boxed and sent to John Jay College. From the time of receipt by John Jay College, the materials were only known by their code numbers. Only the completed surveys that had been placed in sealed envelopes and mailed were seen by the John Jay College research team.

3. All external envelopes, packaging and records that linked the sender to the survey data were destroyed by the auditor.

4. The study’s principal investigator opened each one of the envelopes. She recorded the identifying information for each priest—initials and birthdate—and then removed that page from the survey. The identifying data was immediately encrypted and the surveys numbered with a unique numerical code for each priest. The pages with initials and dates of birth were segregated in a secure location, separate from the study office, until data collection was complete. These paper records, and the digital record, have been destroyed.

5. The principal investigator carefully inspected all surveys for accidental disclosure of sensitive or identifying data. If there was any identifying information written on the survey itself, this information was immediately redacted before the surveys were given to the research assistants for coding.

6. Although the formal procedures made it very unlikely that any accidental disclosure of sensitive data would occur, it is always possible that there would be a lapse and sensitive data about victims or abusers be transmitted. Accordingly, the study design included several levels of training in confidentiality protections for diocesan staff and study research assistants in order to reduce the possibility of accidental exposure.

The John Jay College research team sought and was granted approval to conduct the study by the College’s Institutional Review Board which oversees protection of human subjects in research. Additionally, the team applied for a Certificate of Confidentiality, which can be granted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to protect against “compelled disclosure of identifying information about subjects of biomedical, behavioral, clinical, and other research.” The certificate protects the researchers against involuntary disclosure about the identities of research participants and is understood to bar any legal demand for testimony in court. Such a certificate does not prevent any individual priest, victim, diocese or religious community from voluntarily releasing data. After a number of meetings and discussions, DHHS in November 2003 declined not [sic] to grant a Certificate of Confidentiality for the study. A major reason for denying the certificate was the determination that the John Jay College researchers had taken adequate measures to ensure that all identifying information would be removed and the surveys would be confidential, thereby [page 19 begins] precluding the need for a certificate. Additionally, since the primary purpose of the certificate is to protect human subjects who have given their consent to participate in research related to confidential matters that may adversely affect them, this framework did not apply to the John Jay study since the priests were not voluntary research participants, and their consent had not been sought nor granted. Therefore, they were uncertain as to whether it was legally possible to issue a certificate, which is primarily used as a vehicle to encourage human subjects to participate in a research project. In their letter explaining the rejection of a certificate, it was stated that the confidentiality plan for the study “includes multiple and wide-ranging protections for subject identifiers” and as such, “a certificate is not necessary to achieve your research goals.” (See Appendix A.1.1.7 for a copy of the letter. [The letter is actually labeled Appendix A1.2.17.)

[Notes for the previous section are collected in a note section at the end of the Web version of this report, and every reference in the text is hyperlinked to the note itself.]

[page 20 begins]


Any accusation that is not implausible (see definition below). This includes allegations that did not necessarily result in a criminal, civil or diocesan investigation and allegations that are unsubstantiated.

An implausible allegation is one that could not possibly have happened under the given circumstances (e.g., an accusation is made to a bishop about a priest who never served at that diocese). Erroneous information does not necessarily make the allegation implausible (e.g., a priest arrived at the diocese a year after the alleged abuse, but all other facts of the case are credible and the alleged victim might have mistaken the date).

Boundary Problem
Inability to maintain a clear and appropriate interpersonal (physical as well as emotional) distance between two individuals where such a separation is expected and necessary. Boundary problems can be mild to moderate, such as the case of a therapist or teacher who develops a personal relationship with his/her student or patient; or, they may be severe, as in the development of an intimate relationship.

Canon law
According to, canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. The word adopted is here used to point out the fact that there are certain elements in canon law borrowed by the Church from civil law or from the writings of private individuals, who as such had no authority in ecclesiastical society.

A geographical division of the Catholic Church led by a bishop that includes Catholic communicants (“the faithful”) and parishes.

A Catholic Church jurisdiction, similar to a diocese, of Eastern-rite Catholics living in the United States.

Ephebophile (also called hebophile)
A clinical term (though not included in the DSM-IV) that denotes one who is sexually attracted to adolescent or post-pubescent children.

A priest who has not been incardinated to the diocese where he is working and living.

False allegation
An allegation that was proven to be untruthful and fabricated.

A priest who has been formally affiliated to a diocese is said to be incardinated in that diocese

Used to convey the number of new events occurring in a specific time period. [page 21 begins]

Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Each institution engaged in research involving human subjects that is supported by a department or agency to which the federal policy applies must establish an IRB to review and approve the research. Under the regulations, an institution can also establish more than one IRB, which may be necessary or appropriate, depending on the structure of the institution or the kinds of human subjects research that is performed at that institution. Alternatively, an institution can designate another institution's IRB to review its research upon approval of the appropriate department or agency. If the research is supported by the Department of Health and Human Services, such designations must have the prior approval of the Office for Protection from Research Risks.

Conversion from an ecclesiastical to a lay condition.

The average value of a set of numbers.

The mid-point in a set of numbers. In other words, fifty percent of cases fall above and fifty percent of cases fall below the median.

National Review Board (NRB)
Established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to commission a study on the "nature and scope" of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. See [See our web version of the NRB report, and the original PDF of the NRB report, reprocessed so that it is searchable and smaller for easier download.]

The sacramental rite by which a "sacred order" is conferred (diaconate, priesthood, episcopacy). The ceremony of consecration to the ministry.

Permanent Deacon
According to the Official Catholic Directory (A-14), they are sometimes referred to as "married deacons," although the permanent diaconate is open to both married and unmarried men, with the understanding that after ordination, they may not marry even after the death of a spouse. Under the authority of the diocesan bishop, they perform the same functions as transitional deacons while, at the same time, retaining their roles in society as family and business men.

The total number (or estimate of the total number) of cases or events at a given time.

Region (of the Catholic Church in the United States)
One of fourteen geographical areas, or divisions, of the Catholic Church in the United States.

Data that is consistent, yielding the same or similar results in different clinical experiments or statistical trials.

Religious community
A group that may include ordained clerics and/or non-ordained brothers who are professed members of a religious order, and who live subject to the rules of that order. This term is used in [page 22 begins] this study to include members of religious orders or institutes as well as those who reside in cloistered communities, monasteries, and abbeys.

Restricted ministry/ restricted faculties
An administrative decision made by a bishop or major superior to limit the ecclesiastical and/or parish or community functions of an individual priest.

An educational institute for men that are preparing for the Holy Orders. Major seminary--A school for the spiritual, academic, and pastoral education and formation of priesthood candidates. Focus is on philosophical and theological teachings. Minor seminary--A prerequisite to the major seminary. Focus is on required courses in the humanities and the sciences.

Sexual abuse of a minor
As per the Charter, sexual abuse includes contacts or interactions between a child and an adult when the child is being used as an object of sexual gratification for the adult. A child is abused whether or not this activity involves explicit force, whether or not it involves genital or physical contact, whether or not it is initiated by the child, and whether or not there is discernible harmful outcome.

Suspension (in Canon Law)
Usually defined as a censure by which a cleric is deprived, entirely or partially of the use of the power of orders, office, or benefice.

Transitional Deacon
The diaconate is the first order or grade in ordained ministry. Any man who is to be ordained to the priesthood must first be ordained as a transitional deacon (also see Permanent Deacon). Deacons serve in the ministry of liturgy, of the work, and of charity (see A-14 of The Official Catholic Directory).

The set of individuals, items, or data from which a statistical sample is taken. [page 23 begins]




The estimation of any form of deviance in the general population is a very difficult task. It is impossible to assess the extent of sexual offending, either in general or with children as targets. Most estimates of the distribution of sexual offenders in the general population are derived from forensic sources, that is, samples of those who are arrested or convicted for sex offenses. All researchers acknowledge that those who are arrested represent only a fraction of all sexual offenders. Sexual crimes have the lowest rates of reporting for all crimes. Not all potential participants in such studies can be known or contacted, not all would use the same language to describe their experiences, and not all are willing to share information. The sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests and deacons is part of the larger problem of sexual abuse of children in the United States. This chapter is a summary of the estimates of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.


The prevalence of some event or behavior in a specific population represents the proportion of a population which has experienced the event or behavior. Since it is not known how many people in the United States experience a form of sexual abuse as children, some researchers select groups, or samples, of individuals to study and direct questions to them. If the selection of the group to be surveyed is not biased, the results of this study provide estimates of the prevalence of sexual abuse in the population from which the group is selected. In order to avoid bias in a sample, every person in the part of the population to be used as a framework for selecting the sample must have an equal chance of being asked to participate. Researchers use the data gathered from those who participate to estimate the proportion of the United States population who are sexually abused during childhood.

Studies of the incidence, as opposed to the prevalence, of sexual abuse of children concentrate on estimating the number of new cases occurring over a particular period of time and on whether the number of events or incidents is increasing or decreasing. Scholarly studies of both the incidence and the prevalence of sexual abuse of children in the United States began emerging in the 1960s and gained greater urgency after the cluster of day care center child abuse cases in the 1980s made the issue one of acute public interest. A look at victimization studies that focus on the sexual abuse of minor children suggests that the scope of this problem is extensive.

Although we do not have data reflecting the prevalence of abusers, there are data from several studies reporting the prevalence of victimization. The prevalence rates reported in these studies vary somewhat. [page 24 begins]

• 27% of the females and 16% of the males disclosed a history of childhood sexual abuse; 42% of the males were likely to never have disclosed the experience to anyone whereas 33% of the females never disclosed. [1; notes are collected in a note section at the end of this Web version; after clicking the number to view the note, click Back to return to this point in the text of the report]

• 12.8% of the females and 4.3% of the males reported a history of sexual abuse during childhood. [2]

• 15.3% of the females and 5.9% of the males experienced some form of sexual assault. [3]

• Only 5.7% of the incidents were reported to the police; 26% of the incidents were not disclosed to anyone prior to the study. [4]

• In summary, when compared with their male counterparts, females were more likely to have been sexually abused during childhood. Furthermore, females were more likely than males to disclose such information; however, disclosure rates are quite low regardless of the victim’s gender.

Finkelhor and Jones have used data from National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) to make a national estimate of the number of sexual abuse cases substantiated by child protective service (CPS) for the period from 1992 to 2000. Using data from more than forty states, they report that the number of substantiated sexual abuse cases peaked at approximately 149,800 in 1992, followed by annual declines of 2 to 11 percent per year through 2000 when the number of cases reached a low of approximately 89,355. [5]

Professional opinion is divided about why this drop occurred and how much of the drop is real or the result of factors such as changes in definitions, reporting and investigation by the states. Finkelhor and Jones examined other indicia of sex abuse rates and conclude that, taken together, they suggest that at least part of the drop in cases has resulted from a decline in sexual abuse of children. [6] The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)—which asks about rape and sexual assault for victims ages 12 and older (including acts counted within the broader definition of child sexual abuse)—shows that sex offenses against children ages 12-17 declined 56 percent between 1993 and 2000. Virtually all the decline, 72 percent, occurred in offenses committed by known perpetrators (family and acquaintances) which declined. [7] Finkelhor and Jones observe that cases involving known perpetrators are the ones most likely to be categorized as sexual abuse. [8]

Another source of self-report data on sexual abuse is the Minnesota Student Survey, which has been administered to 6th, 9th, and 12th-grade students in Minnesota in 1989, 1992, 1995, 1998, and 2001. [9] Between 90 and 99 percent of Minnesota's school districts and more than 100,000 students have participated in the survey each year. The survey includes two questions about sexual abuse. Results indicate that sexual abuse by family and nonfamily perpetrators showed a slight rise between 1989 and 1992 followed by a 22-percent drop from 1992 to 2001. [10] At the same time reports of sexual abuse have declined, there has been a significant drop in crime rates and measures of family problems such as violence among adult intimates, and a drop in out-of-wedlock teenage pregnancies and live births to teenage mothers (some of which are attributable to child sexual abuse)—all of these suggest a general improvement in the well-being of children. [page 25 begins]

Additionally, Finkelhor and Jones suggest that rates of sexual abuse have perhaps been reduced as a result of increased incarceration for sexual abuse offenders. They report that surveys of state correctional facilities indicate that between 1991 and 1997, the number of individuals incarcerated in state correctional facilities for sex crimes against children rose 39 percent, from 43,500 to 60,700, having already more than doubled from 19,900 in 1986. They further note that these totals do not include large numbers of sexual abusers who receive sanctions which do not involve incarceration for a year or more. [11]

[Notes for the previous section are collected in a note section at the end of the Web version of this report, and every reference in the text is hyperlinked to the note itself.] [page 26 begins]



A paramount concern for all involved with the study has been the determination of the prevalence of the problem in the Catholic Church in the United States. The survey responses make it clear that the problem was indeed widespread and affected more than 95% of dioceses and approximately 60% of religious communities. Of the 195 dioceses and eparchies that participated in the study, all but seven have reported that allegations of sexual abuse of youths under the age of 18 have been made against at least one priest serving in ecclesiastical ministry in that diocese or eparchy. Of the 140 religious communities that submitted surveys, all but 30 reported at least one allegation against a religious priest who was a member of that community.

Researchers asked each diocese, eparchy and religious community to provide the total number of priests who were active, or serving in ministry, between 1950 and 2002 so that the number of the accused could be presented as a part of an overall total. In our effort to understand the scope and distribution of the problem for the dioceses and eparchies, researchers collected information on the region, a geographical division of the Catholic Church, the number of Catholics per diocese, and the number of parishes per diocese. Dioceses and eparchies were asked to indicate these numbers by choosing one of ten equal ranges for the number of Catholic communicants and the number of parishes. The range, i.e., 88,501 – 122,000, 122,001 – 170,000, and so forth, in Catholic population, was used to ensure confidentiality of each study participant. Religious communities were grouped into ten equal groups by their total membership and clerical membership, as reported in the Official Catholic Directory 2002. These different ways of looking at the scope of the problem were used to examine the extent of sexual abuse of youths under 18 by Catholic priests and deacons.

• Dioceses and eparchies reported that allegations of child sexual abuse had been made against 4,692 priests and deacons for incidents that took place while these men were serving in ecclesiastical ministry. Individual survey forms were submitted for 4,557 of these priests. Of these, some surveys had to be eliminated because the victim’s [sic] was 18 or older or the date of the alleged incident was prior to 1950 or after 2002.

• Religious communities reported that allegations of sexual abuse had been made against 647 priests who were members of their communities. Dioceses reported additional religious priests, for a study total of 929 religious priests.

• When the multiple surveys for the 143 priests who were the subject of allegations in more than one diocese or religious community are condensed to a single record, the total number of Catholic priests and deacons in the United States who have been accused of sexual abuse of children is 4,392.

• When dioceses are grouped by the fourteen geographical regions of the Church, the average percent of all incardinated priests in a region’s dioceses to have been [page 27 begins] accused of sexual abuse is consistent: all regions averaged between 3% and 6% of priests accused.

• If the total number of priests in religious communities who have had allegations made against them is presented as a percentage of all religious priests in ministry, as estimated f[ro]m the study data, the percentage accused of child sexual abuse is 2.7%.

The consistency of the findings in dioceses across the United States is remarkable: whether region, number of Catholic communicants or number of parishes is used to array the dioceses, the results show allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 2.5% to 7% of diocesan priests. Similarly, whether religious priests are ranked by overall membership o[r] religious clerical membership, the percent of priests in communities who have been accused ranges from 1% to 3%, or approximately half of that of the diocesan priests.

To estimate the percentage of all priests in ecclesiastical ministry between 1950 and 2002 who have been the subject of allegations requires a reliable overall total of priests in ministry during that time period. This calculation was done two different way[s]—first by using the data collected through the Diocesan and Religious Order Profiles and then by using the estimates produced by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. [1; notes are collected in a note section at the end of this Web version; after clicking the number to view the note, click Back to return to this point in the text of the report] These different methods both yielded the same statistic: approximately 4% of Catholic priests and deacons in active ministry between 1950 and 2002 have been accused of the sexual abuse of a youth under the age of 18.

Surveys for 90% of the priests and deacons reported to have had allegations of child sexual abuse included the year of ordination. If the yearly ordination totals for diocesan priests accused are compared to the overall number of diocesan priests ordained in that year, the percentages of accused priests range from a maximum of almost 10% in 1970, decreasing to 8% in 1980 and to fewer than 4% in 1990.

These prevalence estimates alone do not describe the extent of the problem of sexual abuse. Another way to understand the extent of the problem is to ask how many incidents of sexual abuse were alleged to occur each year of the study period or, alternatively, to ask how many priests were accused in each year. This distribution of alleged abuse events over time shows the pattern of the reported sexual abuse. When the incidents recorded in the surveys are tallied for each year of occurrence (of each incident), the resulting figure shows that 75% of the events were alleged to occur between 1960 and 1984. This result should be considered together with the declining percentage of priests ordained in each year. Additionally, understanding about sexual abuse and the treatment of sexual offenders has changed markedly between 1950 and 2002, and as a result both reporting and response to the problem are like to have been affected.

[Notes for the previous section are collected in a note section at the end of the Web version of this report, and every reference in the text is hyperlinked to the note itself.]

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The red (upper) line in Figure 2.3.1 represents the total incidents of alleged abuse for each year of the study while the blue (lower) line charts the total number of priests accused in each year of the study.

Figure 2.3.1 Annual Count of Incidents Reported and Priests Accused, by Year


The calculation of an overall percentage of priests in ministry was initially derived using information from the Diocesan Profiles for total numbers of priests and deacons subject to allegations compared to the total of those in ministry between 1950 and 2002. The surveys reported 75,694 diocesan priests and approximately 34,000 religious priests in ministry with 4,392 accused of abuse. If the total of the accused priests (4,392) is divided by the total of all priests in ministry between 1950 and 2002 (109,694), the result is 4%; for diocesan priests only, (3,282/76,694), the percentage is 4.27% and for religious priests, (929/34,000), 2.7%. [1; notes are collected in a note section at the end of this Web version; after clicking the number to view the note, click Back to return to this point in the text of the report]

Alternatively, the total of priests in ministry estimated by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate is 94,607 between 1960 and 2002. If the number of priests who had no allegations after 1959 is removed (265), the total of surveys for priests and deacons with allegations of child sexual abuse is 4,127, and the resulting percentage is slightly more than 4%. [page 29 begins]

Figure 2.3.2 Distribution of Alleged Incidents of Abuse, By Date of First Instance


The tables that follow show in detail the distribution of the allegations of child sexual abuse for each diocese or religious community, arrayed by a series of demographic variables. The results are fairly uniform across each of the three diocesan tables: the percentage of incardinated priests and deacons accused of child sexual abuse is consistently between 3% and 6% and the overall average is 5%. For the religious communities, a similar uniformity is evident although it is approximately half of the diocesan level. The tables that follow do not include priests who have been exonerated, or those who were determined to be ineligible for the study because they did not meet the protocol criteria.

Table 2.3.1 shows the average number of incardinated clerics who have been accused of sexual abuse and the percentage of accused clerics within the total number of incardinated clerics in an individual diocese, grouped by Catholic Region. These tables also show the dioceses with the lowest number (and percentage) of accused priests in a Region and the dioceses with the highest number (and percentage). Table 2.3.2 shows the United States dioceses grouped by the size of the Catholic population and Table 2.3.3 repeats this display by the number of parishes. Tables 2.3.4 and 2.3.5 show the average number of religious community members who have been accused of sexual abuse, grouped by the overall membership of the community and then by clerical membership. [page 30 begins]

The average number of incardinated clerics in individual diocese or eparchy who have been the subject of an allegation of sexual abuse is 19. Another way of expressing this statistic is that the average diocese or eparchy had records or knowledge of allegations against 19 clerics. The total number of accused clerics incardinated to an individual diocese or eparchy, between 1950 and 2002, ranges from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 165.

Table 2.3.1 Percent and Number of Incardinated Clerics per Diocese or Eparchy Accused of Sexual Abuse, Grouped by Region



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Table 2.3.2 Percent and Number of Incardinated Clerics per Diocese or Eparchy Accused of Sexual Abuse, Grouped by Catholic Population


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Table 2.3.3 Percent and Number of Incardinated Clerics per Diocese Who Have Been Accused of Sexual Abuse, Grouped by Number of Parishes


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Table 2.3.4 Percent and Number of All Clerics in Religious Communities Accused of Sexual Abuse, Grouped by the Overall Membership


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Table 2.3.5 Percent and Number of All Clerics in Religious Communities Accused of Sexual Abuse, Grouped by the Current Clerical Membership


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Figure 2.3.3 Priests Accused As a Percent of All Ordinations, By Year


This figure shows the percentage of all priests ordained in each year from 1960 to 2002 who were subsequently accused of child sexual abuse. Data was not available for the total number of Catholic priests ordained for the years 1950 through 1959. The upper, or darker, line represents the percentage of ordained diocesan priests and the lower, or lighter, line is the percentage of all who were ordained. The Official Catholic Directory and the Center for Applied Research were the sources for the total numbers of yearly ordinations.

[Notes for the previous section are collected in a note section at the end of the Web version of this report, and every reference in the text is hyperlinked to the note itself.]

[Continue to Part Three or return to Table of Contents.]