The Catholic Thing published an article titled Lessons of the Latest Abuse Numbers by Stephen P. White. Stephen P. White is executive director of The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America and a fellow in Catholic Studies at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Mr. White reports:
Every year, the USCCB publishes a report on how well the Church in the United States is implementing the Dallas Charter (the 2002 document on handling charges of abuse of minors). It includes results from the most recent independent audit of dioceses and eparchies, points out where changes are needed, and makes recommendations for improvement. The report also provides statistics about abuse allegations made during the previous year.
The most recent report – covering July 2018 through June 2019 – appeared last month. It begins with a summary list of the relevant, abuse-related events over that period covered by the report, starting with the suspension from ministry of Theodore McCarrick in June 2018. The list continues for five more pages. To someone who has followed the abuse crisis closely, there is nothing new in that summary. But seeing it all laid out in one place is still a bit staggering.
Unsurprisingly, with clergy abuse so much in the news, with dioceses conducting reviews of old clergy files, and with many jurisdictions opening “look-back windows” on the civil statute of limitations, the number of abuse allegations spiked considerably last year. According to the report, “Between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, 4,434 allegations were reported by 4,220 victims/survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy throughout 194 Catholic dioceses and eparchies.”
Thus, 4,434 previously unreported allegations in one year. To put that in context, it’s more than the number of allegations reported in the four previous years combined. And it easily tops – by more than 1,000 – the previous record for the most new allegations in a single year (3,399) set in 2002.
About one-quarter of these new allegations (1,034) are considered “substantiated,” by which the report means they have been “deemed credible/true based upon the evidence gathered through the investigation.” Most of the other new allegations are either “unable to be proven” (usually because the accused is deceased), still under investigation, or still awaiting investigation. Only 147 allegations out of 4,434 have been determined to be “unsubstantiated.”
Table 1 on page 38 of the report shows the following in the Catholic Church:
[T]he responding dioceses and parchies reported that between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, they received 2,237 new credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a diocesan or
eparchial priest or deacon.
These allegations were made by 2,237 individuals against 1,391 priests or deacons. Of the 2,237 new allegations reported during this reporting period (July 1, 2018 through June 30,2019), one allegation (less than 1 percent) involved a minor under the age of 18 in 2019. Nearly all of the other allegations were made by adults who are alleging abuse when they were minors.
Table 1. New Credible Allegations Received by Dioceses and Eparchies
Dioceses and Eparchies
The Data Collection Process
Dioceses and eparchies began submitting their data for the 2019 survey in September 2019. CARA and the Secretariat contacted every diocese or eparchy that had not sent in a contact name by late August 2019 to obtain the name of a contact person to complete the survey. CARA and the Secretariat sent multiple reminders by e-mail and telephone to these contact persons, to encourage a high response rate.
By December 2019, all but one of the 197 dioceses and eparchies of the USCCB had responded to the survey, for a response rate of 99 percent. The participation rate among dioceses and eparchies has been nearly unanimous each year of this survey. Beginning in 2004 and 2005 with response rates of 93 and 94 percent, respectively, the response reached 99 percent each year from 2006 to 2014, was 100 percent for 2015 and 2016, and was 99 percent for 2017, 2018, and 2019. A copy of the survey instrument for dioceses and eparchies is included in this report in Appendix I.
Credible Allegations Received by Dioceses and Eparchies
As is shown in Table 1, the responding dioceses and eparchies reported that between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019, they received 2,237 new credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a diocesan or eparchial priest or deacon. These allegations were made by 2,237 individuals against 1,391 priests or deacons. Of the 2,237 new allegations reported during this reporting period (July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019), one allegation (less than 1 percent) involved children under the age of 18 in 2019. Nearly all of the other allegations were made by adults who are alleging abuse when they were minors
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