* Abuse filings half 2004 peak, settlements cost $124 mln
* Auditors warn on adherence to child protection rules
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Roman Catholic
Church and its insurers paid $124 million last year to settle
allegations of child sexual abuse, up from $104 million a year
earlier, a church-commissioned audit showed Monday.
There were 428 new allegations of sexual abuse against a
minor filed in 2010, seven of which related to child abuse that
was said to occur during the year, the U.S. Conference of
Bishops said, citing the audit.
The number of claims was 7 percent higher higher than those
lodged in 2009, but half the 2004 peak when 889 people reported
abuse deemed by the auditors as credible, the report found.
Of the 345 clergy accused in 2010 of abuse, two-thirds had
either already been removed from the ministry or had died,
according to the report, based on a survey by the Center for
Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
An abuse scandal erupted in Boston a decade ago and spread
across the country, causing the U.S. Catholic Church to adopt a
"Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" and
to pay for annual independent audits of claims.
Along with their report, the auditors sent warning notices
to 55 of 188 participating dioceses last year, compared with 23
dioceses in 2009, over perceived shortcomings in adhering to
the child protection charter.
Shortcomings included allowing clergy barred from ministry
to lead public prayers, not monitoring parishes, not keeping
track of the "safe environment training" required of priests,
and failing to enforce other measures intended to end abuse.
"Bishops are getting worse, not better, with children's
safety," Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of
those Abused by Priests, said in response to the findings.
"After a decade or more of promises, bishops are still
refusing to abide by their own vague, weak policies adopted
largely as a public relations move," she said in a statement.
But Teresa Kettelkamp, executive director of the bishops'
Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, said child safety
principles and actions were being integrated into church life.
"This audit shows the Church's noteworthy job in keeping
its promise to protect and pledge to heal," she said in a
letter accompanying the report.
Pope Benedict last year called for a re-examination of the
Church's message and practices to enable it to learn from the
scandal of the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic
The pope begged forgiveness for the scandal, which has
shaken the Catholic Church and set off protests around the
world. But there have been repeated calls from groups
representing abuse victims for more to be done.
Total abuse settlements paid by the U.S. church are
approaching $3 billion. The 2010 payments were well below the
record annual outlay of $499 million to settle cases in 2007.
(Reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Laura Macinnis)
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