Report Cites Fewer Sex Abuse Cases in US

Number of Allegations at 5-Year Low

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WASHINGTON, D.C., MARCH 23, 2010 ( Numbers relating to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy are at the lowest they’ve been since 2004, and most allegations in 2009 were regarding earlier decades.

This is one of the positive trends reported in the 2009 annual report on compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

In 2009, there were 398 allegations and 286 offenders reported to dioceses. Of these allegations, six regarded children under the age of 18 that year. By the end of 2009, almost 50 of the allegations had been determined false or were unsubstantiated.

The data was collected by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).

“For the majority of new allegations (71%) brought to dioceses, the abuse began between 1960 and 1984. The most common time period for allegations reported in 2009 was 1975-1979,” CARA noted.

The Church was also paying out less money in 2009 because of sexual abuse. Dioceses paid more that $104 million in ’09, 53% of which was for settlements with victims.

“Compared to 2008, amounts paid for settlements in 2009 decreased by 83% and the amount paid in attorneys’ fees declined by 3%,” CARA reported.

On the other hand, dioceses invested more than $21 million in child protection efforts, including training programs and background checks.

In a memo to all bishops and eparchs to accompany the audit report, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, suggested that the charter is «causing a cultural change in the U.S. Catholic Church, one I hope will permeate all areas of society.”

He affirmed that bishops must continue to reach out to victims.

«Of course, as bishops,» the cardinal said, «we take the responsibility to reach out to victims/survivors and create safe environments seriously. The life and dignity of the victims/survivors and of little ones lie at the core of our responsibilities as shepherds.»

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