DIOCESE OF BELLEVILLE IL
By Patrick J. Powers firstname.lastname@example.org
The voluntary audit is conducted as part of a national study released today on sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. It examined all allegations made against priests in the Belleville Diocese from 1950 until 2002. Some of its findings include:
• 46 people made allegations of sexual abuse as a minor by a priest or deacon.
• 25 of 350 priests were accused of sexual abuse, 22 from within the Belleville Diocese and three from another diocese or religious order.
• Allegations against eight priests were either unfounded, anonymous or so vague that a full and fair investigation was deemed impossible.
• Victims of 15 of the 17 priests with credible accusations against them were male. The victims of the other two priests were female.
The findings of the audit reflect Bishop Wilton Gregory's attempt to be as transparent as possible when dealing with sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Margason said. "We just tried to be complete as possible," he said.
The Belleville Diocese removed 14 priests and one deacon from ministry since March 1993 because of sexual abuse allegations. The three remaining priests with credible accusations of sexual abuse died before their victims came forward.
There is no priest now working in the diocese, approved for priestly ministry, who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse by a minor, according to the diocese.
The Belleville Diocese was the first in the nation to be audited as part of the national study commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' National Review Board. It was conducted June 2-6 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.
The purpose of the national study was to determine the scope of sexual abuse within the church. It was mandated by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the USCCB in June 2002.
The local audit commended the Belleville Diocese for "demonstrating progressive, innovative leadership by having policies (against child abuse) ... since 1990 and for keeping these policies updated." It also praised a policy that "goes beyond what is required in the charter."
However, critics said the commendations mean little to prevent child abuse in the future.
"It shows how the bar is set very low," said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivor's Network of Those Abused by Priests. "It's hard to praise (the Belleville Diocese) for having a written policy in 1990. The reason they had a written policy in 1990 was because they needed one."
The Belleville Diocese covers 28 counties in Southern Illinois and includes
125 parishes, 39 schools and 105,266 registered Catholics. There are 134
diocesan priests and 30 deacons.
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