DIOCESE OF SAGINAW MI
Two of the priests have since died and the remaining three men no longer serve in ministry, the diocese's Office of Communication said in an unsigned press release.
In addition, the diocese did not pay any money to resolve the cases, nor has it paid or loaned money to other diocese to help pay costs for sexual abuse claims, the press release said.
The diocese did not name the priests or deacon.
"I apologize to anyone who has been victimized by a trusted member of the church," Bishop Kenneth E. Untener, head of the 139,825-member diocese, said in the release.
"We need to use this opportunity to open up awareness of child abuse. This is not only a church issue, but a tragic reality that exists throughout society. Our public failures, embarrassing as they are, could produce the good effects of more openness across all of society in dealing with this problem."
Diocese officials directed all questions to Untener, whom The Saginaw News was unable to contact for comment.
Saginaw church leaders released the information in anticipation of today's publication of the New York-based John Jay College of Criminal Justice's year-long quantitative study on the number of cases filed against American priests and permanent deacons in 190 dioceses from 1950 through 2002.
The National Review Board of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned the unprecedented study.
"The (Saginaw Diocese) numbers seem to be on the unusually low end," said Saginaw resident Pat McCoy, a member of the Catholic reform group Call To Action.
"However, if the numbers are correct, it is a bit of a relief that the Saginaw Diocese was spared the amount of abuse suffered by dioceses around the world.
"We have to applaud them for what they have done right now. However, because there is not a source indicating where the number came from or who put the report together there is no way to verify anything."
Last year, the bishops adopted the policy to protect children and restore trust in the church's shattered leadership after a scandal over prelates who sheltered guilty priests.
A January audit found 90 percent of the 195 U.S. dioceses were complying fully with the current plan, which dictates punishment for priests who molest children and requires bishops to enact safeguards against abuse.
The review also found inconsistent record-keeping in dioceses, some inadequate tracking of accused priests and too little comment from victims on how bishops could improve their response to an allegation of priestly sexual misconduct.
The audit, which was overseen mostly by former FBI agents or investigators, said studies were needed to measure whether abuse-prevention programs were effective and that individual parishes, where most children are involved in the church, were following them.
The investigators also recommended a survey of the many victims who were not interviewed for the audit to ask them how bishops should handle abuse cases.
Overall, bishops should do more to fulfill their pledge to reach out to victims and their families, through one-on-one meetings and other means, the report said.
While some dioceses are struggling to make amends, Saginaw's diocese has received commendations for its efforts to address sex abuse allegations.
In June 2003, Untener established a Review Board to help him with his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests or deacons and regularly review diocesan policies dealing with those claims.
In addition, copies of the revised Policies and Procedures on the Sexual Abuse of Minors were distributed to diocesan priests and pastoral administrators.
The summer report by the Review Board outlines procedures in its "Virtus: Protecting God's Children" that all diocesan employees should follow if an allegation of abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon is reported.
The Saginaw program is one of several efforts church leaders across the country are taking to quash child abuse.
"I don't think they would sweep anything under the rug," said Saginaw resident Betty Hansen, a member of St. Mary Cathedral, 615 Hoyt, Saginaw. "However, I have doubts they are doing all they can do."
McCoy has concerns too.
"The difficulty now is what do we do with the information now that we have it," McCoy asked. "How are we dealing with the victims and are we in some way guaranteeing that it will not happen again?
"On the other hand, what about the good priests who may have been accused and had their reputations sullied. How do we repair that?" t [so posted]
Denise Ford-Mitchell is a staff writer at The News. You may reach her
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