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USCCB News Release Archives

April 11, 2011

Drop in Number of Victims of Clergy Sexual Abuse Continues; Application of Charter Needs Clarification

Credible accusations by seven youth against seven clerics in 2010
Dioceses beginning to receive reports on boundary violations
Dioceses spent $20 million-plus for safe environment programs

WASHINGTON (April 11, 2011)—Reports of current instances of sexual abuse of minors continues to decrease, with seven credible allegations against seven priests reported in 2010, according to the 2010 Survey of Allegations and Costs done by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, CARA. At the same time diocesan audits are uncovering weaknesses in audit compliance and finding reports of boundary violations short of abuse, such as inappropriate hugging.

A credible allegation is one which has a semblance of truth to it following an initial examination of the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegation. 

The survey by Georgetown University-based CARA collects numbers from the dioceses and coincides with the annual audit of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, conducted by the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection. The audit reviews compliance with the Charter, and is conducted by a team of independent auditors, the Gavin Group Inc. Both the survey and audit report are available on the Web at

All dioceses responded to the CARA survey except the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, which has refused to participate in the compliance audits process since 2004. The U.S. bishops enacted the Charter in 2002 and have conducted national compliance audits annually since 2003.

In addition to the seven cases of abuse of minors in 2010, CARA also found hundreds of accounts of sexual abuse from decades ago that were reported to dioceses only last year. The “number of alleged offenders increased by a fifth, from 286 alleged offenders reported in 2009 to 345 alleged offenders reported in 2010,” CARA reported. Almost 60 percent of these offenders had been identified in earlier allegations and three quarters of the offenders are now dead or laicized.

CARA also noted that two thirds of these allegations (66 percent) are old and occurred or began between 1960 and 1984. The most common time period when these allegations reportedly occurred was 1970-1974.

Costs to dioceses and eparchies (Eastern rite dioceses) related to clergy sexual abuse increased between 2009 and 2010 by more than $19 million. ”More than half of the payments by dioceses and eparchies in 2010 (57 percent) were for settlements to victims.” Costs for settlements paid out by dioceses and eparchies in 2010 were $70,375,228. This was an increase of 28 percent over the previous year’s payments for settlements. Legal fees increased by 18 percent.

CARA also noted that “in addition to allegations-related expenditures, at least $20,954,405 was spent by dioceses and eparchies for child protection efforts such as safe environment coordinators, training programs, and background checks.”

The audits of Charter compliance, as reported by the Gavin Group, found that “all dioceses/eparchies that participated in the 2010 audit process were found to be compliant with the Charter.” At the same time 55 dioceses received management letters expressing concerns about procedures which could result in non-compliance. This number exceeded the number in the 2009 audit, which was 23.

Management letters are sent to a diocese/eparchy by The Gavin Group, Inc. when issues are identified that the auditor believes need to be documented and brought to the bishop’s attention for the bishop to handle as he deems appropriate. These are issues that, though not at level to categorize the diocese/eparchy as non-compliant in a particular area, were identified as possibly doing so if not sufficiently addressed.  The purpose of the management letters is to strengthen the implementation of the Charter within a particular diocese/eparchy.

The chief concern which resulted in the majority of these management letters centered on safe environment programs. “Reasons for the management letters include parishes or schools failing to offer classes for children, new pastors or directors of religious education failing to understand diocesan requirements to train students, accepting parent training as parish training, or simply counting absent students as opt-outs. Several dioceses reported receiving verification from pastors that training had taken place, only to have auditors discover it was not offered,” the report noted.

In evaluation of compliance with safe environment criteria, the audits found that “over 98 percent of clerics were trained” as were “98 percent of employees and volunteers.”

“In addition, over 5 million children received safe environment training. Background evaluations were conducted for over 99 percent of clerics; 99.8 percent of educators; 98.5 percent of employees; and 99.2 percent of volunteers.”

Dioceses that refused to participate in audits included the Diocese of Lincoln, Diocese of Baker, Oregon; the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle for Chaldeans; Eparchy of Newton for Melkites; Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg in New York for Armenian Catholics; Eparchy of St. Josephat of Parma for Ukrainians; Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark for Syriacs. Based on their refusal all were declared non-compliant.


Keywords: Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, U.S. bishops, Gavin Group, Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, safe environment, boundary violations

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