US Audit Finds Number of Sex Abuse Allegations Dropped

34 Allegations Made for Abuse in 2012; Some Already Rejected as Unfounded

The annual audit of diocesan compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People found a drop in the number of allegations, number of victims and number of offenders reported in 2012.

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), which gathered data for the report, found “the fewest allegations and victims reported since the data collection for the annual reports began in 2004.”

Most allegations reported last year were from the 70s and 80s, with many of the alleged offenders already deceased or removed from ministry.

StoneBridge Business Partners, which conducts the audits, said law enforcement found six credible cases among 34 allegations of abuse of minors in 2012 itself. Credibility of 15 of the allegations was still under investigation. Law enforcement found 12 allegations to be unfounded or unable to be proven, and one a boundary violation.

The annual report has two parts. The first is the compliance report of StoneBridge, which conducted on-site audits of 71 dioceses and eparchies and reviewed documentation submitted by 118 others. The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and five Eastern rite dioceses, known as eparchies, declined to be audited.

The StoneBridge audit, in addition to finding most dioceses Charter compliant, reported that “over 99 percent of clerics and over 96 percent of employees and volunteers were trained” in safe environment programs. “In addition, over 4.6 million children received safe environment training. “Background evaluations were conducted on over 99 percent of clerics; 98 percent of educators; 96 percent of employees; and 96 percent of volunteers.”

StoneBridge cited limitations, including “the unwillingness of most dioceses and eparchies to allow us to conduct parish audits during their on-site audits.” It said that “the auditors must rely solely on the information provided by the diocese or eparchy, instead of observing the program firsthand.”

Another limitation is staff turnover in diocesan child abuse prevention programs. As a result, “records are often lost, and successors to the position are often placed in key roles without formal orientation,” StoneBridge reported.

Al J. Notzon, III, chairman of the National Review Board (NRB), which oversees the audits, echoed StoneBridge concerns in a letter to Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Notzon highlighted the importance of good record-keeping “and the great significance of involving parishes in the audit process.”

“Abuse happened in the parishes where our children learn and live their young, growing faith,” Notzon said. “From the NRB’s perspective, parish participation in the audit process is an essential next step in what ‘makes the Charter real’ for laity in those parishes. 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.”

Cardinal Dolan in a preface to the report commended clergy, employees and volunteers trained in safe environment.

“At the same time we also renew our steadfast resolution never to lessen our common commitment to protect children and young people entrusted to our pastoral care,” he said. “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.”

The second part is the “2012 Survey of Allegations and Costs,” conducted by CARA. 

In data gathering from dioceses, CARA noted there were 397 allegations, most of them from decades past, against 313 priests or deacons, by 390 individuals. About 84% of the victims were male. Half were between the ages of 10 and 14 when the abuse began. An estimated 17% were between 15 and17, and 19% were under age 10.

Dioceses and eparchies that responded to the survey reported costs related to allegations at $112,966,427 in 2012. Expenses covered settlements, attorney fees, therapy for victims and support for offenders. The total amount expended for dioceses, eparchies and religious orders was $148,338,437. Dioceses and religious orders also spent $26,583,087 for child protection programs.

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