Bishop Accountability


Accused Priests: About 40 (of which 30 were accused during 1950-2002, and about 10 during 2003)
Total Priests: 693 (diocesan, extern, and order)
Persons Making Accusations: 278
Cost: $26,520,000 (of which about $820,000 in expenses for settlements, legal fees, and counseling in 1950-2002, and $25,700,000 for the settlement in 2003; the 2003 figure reflects only the amount of the settlement)

See the Dallas Morning News database entry on Archbishop Thomas Kelly. The June 2002 database examined the records of bishops and identified those who had allowed accused priests to continue working or had otherwise protected priests accused of sexual abuse. The database is relevant to the bishops' "Nature and Scope" study because the bishops who prepared the surveys for the study are in many cases responsible for the "scope" of the problem.

Thursday, February 26, 2004 – The Record

Tomorrow, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is releasing a national study of sexual abuse by clergy, which was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. This report includes national statistics on all accusations of abuse by priests between 1950 and 2002. It also will examine a variety of factors related to this issue, such as seminary formation, whether the accused priest was abused as a child, the use of alcohol in connection with the abuse, and so on. The report will be released in aggregate numbers and will not include individual diocesan statistics.

We participated in this study. We reported that between 1950 and 2002, 30 priests (including both diocesan and religious order priests) had been accused by 215 accusers, with about $820,000 in costs. This dollar figure, which is an estimate, includes costs for settlements, legal fees, and counseling expenses. It is important to note that this dollar figure does not include the $25.7 million settlement or any other costs incurred in 2003.

We bishops decided to conduct this study because we want to know what happened and what contributed to this terrible series of events. We also wanted to create a baseline against which we could measure improvement. I support this study and understand its importance even though I know that its results may create more pain and confusion among Catholics.

Locally the study does not tell the whole story because we are still learning about the scope of this problem. In 2003 we were involved in an active litigation process, and we received additional accusations that brought our totals to about 40 priests and 278 accusers. These numbers are in a constant state of flux. We continue to investigate and to hear from people about the past. Even now, I do not believe we have heard it all.

Another drawback to the study is that the John Jay Study requested information on the number of priests who have been accused, whether or not those accusations were substantiated. Because 40% of the accused priests in this Archdiocese are deceased, and the majority of accusers have come to us through civil litigation, there are many gaps in information. We may never be able to substantiate some cases. I can assure you, however, that no priest with a credible or substantiated accusation of child abuse is in public ministry in this Archdiocese.

Overall these allegations represent 5.7% of the approximately 693 diocesan, religious order, and extern priests who served this Archdiocese since 1950. These figures are shocking. I feel tremendous sorrow for the pain of those who were abused, the betrayal of their families, and the loss of trust within our faith communities. Moreover, I deeply regret my lack of understanding of the scope of the problem in this Archdiocese. More than anyone else, the bishop has an obligation to know and understand. For this failure on my part, I again ask for forgiveness from the victims and from all whom I serve.

Our focus now is on listening to victims’ stories, offering opportunities for further healing, and prevention and education. In December I wrote to all of the plaintiffs who were involved in the large settlement and invited them to meet with me or with our Victim Assistance Coordinators. Several people have been in to see us. We also are working with a group of victims on a healing service, and we are developing education and formation programs for Catholics in general.

In collaboration with the Center for Women and Families, we have conducted safe environment programs for more than 4,000 staff members in parishes, school, and agencies about childhood sexual abuse, including causes, symptoms, how to respond, and how to report. We are scheduling another fifteen sessions this spring for volunteers who work with children in Church sponsored institutions, and we will schedule more training opportunities at the beginning of next school year.

Undoubtedly the John Jay study will be another sobering reality for our Church. Understanding the past is an important step in healing for the future. Please continue to pray for all survivors of childhood sexual abuse, especially those victims of abuse in the Church. As we seek to understand how this happened, we must continue to ensure that future generations of children are safe in our Church, in our families, and in our communities.

Archdiocese gives figures on sex abuse
About 6% of priests in and near Louisville accused since 1950

By Peter Smith
(Louisville) Courier-Journal
February 26, 2004

Nearly 6 percent of the almost 700 priests who have served the Archdiocese of Louisville since 1950 have been accused of sexual abuse, according to figures being released today by the archdiocese.

Archbishop Thomas Kelly outlines the statistics in a report today in the archdiocesan newspaper, The Record — in advance of tomorrow's release of two nationwide reports on the extent and causes of clergy abuse in the church since 1950.

"These figures are shocking," Kelly acknowledged in his Record column. "I feel tremendous sorrow for the pain of those who were abused, the betrayal of their families, and the loss of trust within our faith communities."

Kelly also said the statistics on the number of priests accused — about 40, or 5.7 percent of the total — are not final. "We continue to investigate and to hear from people about the past," he said. "Even now, I do not believe we have heard it all."

The local rate is higher than the numbers released so far by many dioceses around the country in advance of tomorrow's national report. But comparisons between dioceses may be difficult because some bishops are releasing more limited statistics. Archbishop Daniel Buechlein of Indianapolis, for example, has released only the number of accusations that his archdiocese considers credible or substantiated, and those figures include only archdiocesan priests.

Kelly's report includes all those accused, including those the archdiocese returned to ministry after concluding it could not confirm the charges.

It says that from 1950 through 2002, approximately 693 priests have served in the Louisville archdiocese, either as members of the archdiocese or on assignment here by religious orders or other dioceses.

The report is the first to put a percentage on how many local priests have been accused, although many of the Louisville allegations are already public knowledge because they resulted in lawsuits or criminal investigations.

Beginning in April 2002, more than 250 people filed lawsuits against the archdiocese accusing 35 priests, as well as other church workers, of sexual abuse. Police reports and court documents revealed claims against still other priests.

The archdiocese last year reached a $25.7 million settlement with 243 of the plaintiffs. Through 2002, it had also spent about $820,000 in settlements, counseling and legal costs.

Though Kelly's report includes only those direct costs, the archdiocese has had to cut one-fifth of its work force while raising parish assessments to make up for the loss of investment income after paying out virtually all of its savings in settlements.

Local victims and activists had mixed reactions to the archdiocese's report.

Michael Turner, the first plaintiff to file a lawsuit against the archdiocese in 2002, said he thinks the report's total for number of priests accused might be low, given that 40 is just five more than the number named in lawsuits.

Turner added that while the archdiocese should be "congratulated" for releasing its results, he believes it should have addressed the problem of abusive priests 30 years ago.

Turner also said he was pleased that the archdiocese reported the number of priests who were accused, and not just those where abuse was substantiated. "They're not beating the victim up again," he said.

The head of a Louisville-based national survivors group also said the archdiocese's voluntary release of its numbers is encouraging.

"We do recognize that these numbers should be written in pencil and not in pen," said Linkup President Susan Archibald, adding that new allegations of abuse would push the numbers higher.

The Louisville percentage of priests accused should not be a cause for celebration, she said. "The reaction should be that one is too many."

Two reports due

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is scheduled to release two reports tomorrow on abuse in the church between 1950 and 2002.

One, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, is expected to report widespread allegations of abuse. CNN has reported that a leaked draft copy revealed that 4,450 of the 110,000 priests serving in that time have been accused; that's about 4 percent.

But John Jay officials said they were still collecting data from some dioceses and wouldn't confirm those numbers.

Also tomorrow, a National Review Board of lay people, appointed by bishops to oversee their compliance with tougher policies on abuse, will release a report on the causes and context of the crisis.

Bishops voted in June 2002 to bar from ministry any priest deemed guilty of sexually abusing a minor. That came after reports of a church coverup of abuse, which had surfaced periodically since the 1980s, flared into a nationwide crisis that particularly engulfed the Archdiocese of Louisville.

The cases of the 40 accused priests in Louisville range widely. Kelly permanently removed eight priests from ministry in 2002, two of whom are now in prison.

He has also returned at least three others to ministry after deciding the archdiocese could not substantiate claims against them.

Many other cases may never be resolved, Kelly said, noting that 40 percent of the accused priests — about 16 — are dead, and there are "gaps in information" in many instances.

"We may never be able to substantiate some cases," Kelly wrote. "I can assure you, however, that no priest with a credible or substantiated accusation of child abuse is in public ministry in this Archdiocese."

That stance doesn't satisfy victims' advocates, who have faulted Kelly for returning to ministry a priest who was accused in lawsuits by two men who shared in the settlement.

"We feel that based on the scandal that's been proven here in Louisville, the archdiocese should lose that right to assess what's true and what's not," said The Linkup's Archibald, adding that the case of the Rev. Donald Ryan is a "perfect example."

The archdiocese says it returned Ryan to ministry at St. Denis Church after the men who filed suit failed to respond to requests to provide more information. The archdiocese's review board says it will look into the case, but the accusers, as well as two victims' advocacy groups, say Ryan should remain on leave while the claims are investigated.

Names not released

Kelly has served as archbishop since 1982. Court records revealed that on a number of occasions, he assigned priests to parish ministries or chaplaincies after learning they had sexually molested minors. He also reached confidential financial settlements with some victims.

Kelly has said he and other bishops originally believed such offenses were moral faults and only later realized they involved addictive behavior. He has publicly apologized in the past for the scandal and does so again in today's column.

"I deeply regret my lack of understanding of the scope of the problem in this Archdiocese," he wrote. "More than anyone else, the bishop has an obligation to know and understand. For this failure on my part, I again ask for forgiveness from the victims and from all whom I serve."

He also said the archdiocese has made progress in recent months in such areas as training more than 4,000 church employees on abuse prevention.

Though the John Jay study covers 1950 through 2002, the figures on abuse released by Kelly yesterday include 2003, when the archdiocese received numerous new allegations. Most of the abuse was alleged to have occurred before 1990.

Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer of the archdiocese, said the archdiocese does not plan to release the names of accused priests, though most have been previously disclosed.

"The scope of the (John Jay) study was not about individual names," he said, because accusations are not "synonymous with credible cases."

Still, he said the statistics "represent very real pain of victims. ... I'm also just disturbed by the resulting distrust" faced by church workers who are innocent of any misconduct.

The Rev. Joseph Graffis, pastor of St. Edward Church in Jeffersontown, said the statistics are sobering, though the more important figure is the one the church may never know for certain — how many priests have accusations verified against them.

"It's absolutely horrible, what some of my brothers have done, but on the other hand ... it's still very few," he said. "It's still a terrible violation of trust."

He said the crisis has highlighted the problem of sexual abuse in families and other aspects of society.

"If our scandal leads to dealing with problems of abuse, that's a good thing," he said.

To see previous stories about the child sexual abuse crisis in the Archdiocese of Louisville, go to:


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has prepared three reports this year on sexual abuse in the church — one was released in January; two others are due out tomorrow:

* The January report showed that 90 percent of dioceses are meeting new, stricter guidelines on responding to abuse cases and barring abusers from ministry. The study, conducted primarily by teams of former FBI agents working for a Boston-based consulting firm, the Gavin Group, reported that all dioceses in Kentucky and Indiana were in compliance, though it called for some improvements.

* One of the studies to be released tomorrow, conducted by a National Review Board of lay people appointed by bishops, will report on the causes and context of the abuse crisis.

* The other study, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, will report statistics on the extent of abuse by priests between 1950 and 2002. Though it will not list statistics by diocese, many dioceses have publicly released some of their statistics.

Among those in this area:

* The Diocese of Covington, Ky., reported last week that 9 percent of its diocesan priests have been accused since 1950.

* The Archdiocese of Indianapolis says it has substantiated accusations against 20 of its priests between 1950 and 2002, or 3.9 percent of the total. The figures, however, include only priests who faced allegations the archdiocese could substantiate, and it doesn't include figures for religious-order priests serving there.

* The Diocese of Lexington reported Tuesday that seven priests, or 4.7 percent of those who have served in the diocese since it was established in 1988, have been accused of abuse. All of the misconduct allegedly occurred before the diocese was created out of the Covington and Louisville dioceses.

* The Diocese of Owensboro reported last month of allegations against 13 priests, none of whom are now in ministry, though three allegations were not substantiated. The diocese paid $598,140 in costs, some of which was insured.

Sidebar: Archdiocese of Louisville
Years studied: 1950-2003

Priests serving archdiocese: 693*

Priests accused of abuse: About 40

Percentage accused: 5.7 percent

Number of accusers: 278

* Includes diocesan, religious order and extern priests, or those on assignment from another diocese.



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