By Andrew Stern
CHICAGO, April 10 (Reuters) - The number of credible
allegations of sexual abuse of minors committed by Roman
Catholic priests or deacons in the United States rose 15 percent
last year, and the church spent $144 million to deal with the
ongoing scandal, according to a church-sponsored audit released
A total of 489 people reported credible allegations of abuse
by priests or deacons in 2011, the bulk of them involving adults
victimized when they were children decades ago by now-deceased
clerics, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said in a
report on its ninth annual audit of the issue.
Twenty-one of the victims were younger than 19 and
victimized more recently. Attorneys for victims say there are
likely tens of thousands more victims who have never come
forward since the scandal erupted in Boston in 2002.
"We renew our promise to strive to the fullest to end the
societal scourge of child sexual abuse," Cardinal Timothy Dolan,
president of the conference, said in an introductory letter to
The yearly audit for the bishops identified credible
allegations against 406 priests or deacons. In 2010, there were
428 credible allegations against 345 offenders. More than
one-third of the alleged perpetrators had never been charged
The figures for victims and offenders were twice as high
earlier in the decade, then dropped off beginning in 2008.
Twelve accused clerics remained active in ministry pending
the outcome of investigations. Eleven percent of new allegations
were deemed false.
Altogether, U.S. dioceses and religious institutes spent
$144 million on abuse settlement-related costs, which included
$50 million for settlements, $37 million in attorneys' fees, $6
million on therapy for victims and $10 million on support for
offenders. About a quarter of the settlement amount was covered
by church insurance policies.
The church spent another $33 million on child protection
efforts last year. Nearly all church employees have undergone
training on the issue, the bishops' audit said, and a majority
of children in parishes have been instructed how identify when
they are being "groomed" for abuse and what to do.
"The church must continue to be vigilant. The church must do
all she can never to let abuse happen again. And we must all
continue to work with full resolve toward the healing and
reconciliation of the victims/survivors," Dolan said.
The yearly audit was conducted for the first time by
StoneBridge Business Partners, which visited one-third of the
195 dioceses. Data was also provided by the Georgetown
University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.
Critics such as the Survivors Network of Those Abused by
Priests (SNAP) has said the church cannot police itself, and
that the crime of church higher-ups hiding and transferring
offending priests is a persistent problem.
SNAP's outreach director Barbara Dorris called the audits
A trial is under way for a member of the church hierarchy in
Philadelphia, Monsignor William Lynn, who is accused of
transferring offending priests to unsuspecting parishes.
Lynn, 61, is the highest-ranking member of the U.S. church
to go on trial in an abuse-related case, though Kansas City,
Missouri, Bishop Robert Finn is to go on trial in September on a
charge he failed to report to authorities about a priest found
with pornographic pictures of young girls.
"Those horrific cases prove that, when it comes to kids'
safety, little in church hierarchy has changed," Dorris said.
Altogether, U.S. dioceses have spent $2.1 billion on
settlement-related costs for the abuse scandal between 2004
through last year, according to the report. Eight dioceses and a
Jesuit province have declared bankruptcy since 2004 because of
the costs of the scandal.
(Reporting By Andrew Stern; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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