Catholic Church releases two scathing reports on sexual abuse

10:57 PM, Feb 27, 2004   |    comments
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These reports say hundreds of priests and thousands of victims were involved. And the Church's own investigators accuse bishops of turning their backs on their parishioners. "They breached their responsibilities as shepherds of the flock and put their head in the sand," said Robert Bennett of the National Review Board. The national figures on clergy sexual abuse were anticipated, but still staggering. 4,392 priests, 10,667 victims and $657 million in lawsuit settlements and legal fees since 1950. "For all of the priests with allegations of abuse, 615 of those cases were investigated by the police, 217 priests were charged, 138 were convicted and 100 served time in prison," said principal investigator Dr. Karen Terry. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which asked for the investigations, called the results painful and vowed to move forward. "I can say with absolute assurance that the bishops now have in place the means of responding immediately to allegations, assisting victims and removing offenders from ministry," said Bishops Conference President Bishop Wilton Gregory Two-thirds of the molestation charges against all those priests were substantiated. Most of the cases happened in the 1960's and 1970's. 80 percent of the victims were boys. More than half of those boys were between the ages of 11 and 14. "In the year 1970, more than 10 percent of all priests ordained that year had allegations of abuse," Kerry said. One out of four victims were seduced by alcohol and drugs. Some were given money. The average victim was only 12 years old. The second report, by the Church's own review board, called the abuse a nationwide epidemic. It accused bishops of ignoring victims for fear of lawsuits and failing to screen candidates for the priesthood. Victims say accountability is the issue, holding to task the bishops who let the abusive priests stay. "It's about the cover-up, not the crime," Barbara Blaine of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests says. And they say numbers aren't enough, they want names. "Catholics want to know, for instance, has there been a pedophile priest in my parish, or in my school," asks Peter Isely of the Survivor's Network of those Abused by Priests. The review board urged further study to get to the bottom of the crisis and prevent it from continuing.


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