(Editor's note: Yesterday's original story reported 11 credible allegations. The number is actually six. The story has been amended to reflect that number.)
WASHINGTON — The latest report on child protection in the U.S. Catholic Church found a total of six credible allegations of abuse of minors by diocesan clergy in 2012, with a 20% decrease in the numbers of new credible abuse allegations about incidents in the past 60 years.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the U.S. bishops’ conference president, said in reaction to the report that Catholic bishops renew their “steadfast resolution” not to lessen their commitment to protect children and young people.
“We seek with equal determination to promote healing and reconciliation for those harmed in the past and to assure that our audits continue to be credible and maintain accountability in our shared promise to protect and our pledge to heal,” Cardinal Dolan said May 10, the U.S. bishops’ conference reports.
The 2012 report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was authored for the National Review Board and for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops by the bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection.
The report, drawing from the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, found six credible allegations that diocesan clergy and one credible accusation that a member of a religious order or institute committed offenses against minors in 2012. This represents a slight increase from the seven credible abuse allegations concerning the years 2010-2011.
There are more than 38,000 diocesan and religious Catholic priests and more than 15,000 deacons in the reporting dioceses and eparchies.
Overall, there were 390 new credible allegations made against 313 diocesan priests or deacons in 2012, mainly concerning decades-old claims from the 1970s or 1980s. Only 1% of the allegations concern permanent deacons. About 60% of accused perpetrators had prior allegations against them. Most of the accused have died or have been removed from ministry.
In diocesan allegations, about 84% of abuse victims were male. Abuse disproportionately began when victims were aged 10-14. Only about one in 10 allegations were considered unsubstantiated or were determined to be false.
The financial costs for dioceses remained significant. In 2012, the costs for legal settlements, attorney fees, therapy for victims and offender support totaled almost $113 million. Last year was the third least expensive since the report’s recording period began in 2004. In 2007, financial costs peaked at nearly $500 million in one year.
For religious orders and institutes, there were 74 new credible abuse allegations reported in 2012. About half of these allegations were made against those who had been previously accused. The financial costs of abuse in 2012 totaled $20.1 million.
More than 99% of priests, deacons and educators at Catholic institutions have undergone safe-environment training. Close to 98% of candidates for ordination have gone through the training, as have almost 98% of church volunteers and almost 97% of church employees.
Stonebridge Business Partners, which is conducting audits of diocesan compliance, said some limitations to the audit process include a high rate of staff turnover in child-protection programs. Most dioceses and eparchies are unwilling to let the company conduct parish audits during dioceses’ own on-site audits.
Stonebridge said the auditors “must rely solely on the information provided by the diocese or eparchy, instead of observing the program firsthand.”
The Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., and five Eastern Catholic eparchies have declined to be audited and are not in compliance with the bishops’ charter for child protection. The Dioceses of Lake Charles, La.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Baker, Ore. were each found non-compliant with one requirement of the charter.
Al Notzon III, chairman of the National Review Board overseeing the audit, stressed the importance of keeping good records and involving parishes in the auditing process.
“Abuse happened in the parishes where our children learn and live their young, growing faith,” Notzon said. “What we have come to see is that protecting children from sexual abuse is a race without a finish, and more rather than less effort is necessary to keep this sacred responsibility front and center.”