Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 7 News List

More allegations made against priests

CHARGES LEVIED While a system of independent auditing is still getting off the ground in the Roman Catholic church, 1,092 new allegations of sexual abuse have been made against 756 priests, spanning decades and costing over US$800 million

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

Roman Catholic bishops reported on Friday that they had received 1,092 new allegations of sexual abuse by priests, as they released the second annual survey of the church's procedures for handling and preventing such abuse by clergy and employees.

Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the overwhelming majority of the allegations, which were made against 756 priests, concerned incidents that took place about 30 years ago.

Twenty-two allegations of abuse were made by children in 2004, and they were all turned over to the police, McChesney said.

The findings were released Friday by the national conference, which has hired independent auditors to assess the church's response to the sex abuse scandals that exploded in 2002.

McChesney said the costs to the church had exceeded US$800 million since 1950. For last year alone the costs from settlements, therapy for victims and offenders, and attorneys' fees came to about US$139.6 million, according to the report.

The 1,092 new allegations of abuse were made by 1,083 people, mostly men. Last year the bishops released an analysis conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York based on figures from bishops and religious orders that found 10,667 cases of abuse of minors from 1950 to 2004.

The actual number of victims will probably remain unknown since many people never come forward, McChesney said.

"We weren't surprised by the numbers because many people are still finding the courage to come forward," McChesney said, "and the church is in a better place to accept those allegations."

Of the 756 priests implicated in the report, about half already faced prior allegations of abuse, the report said. Most of the priests are now dead or out of the ministry, the auditors found.

The scope of the auditors' work so far is to determine if the American church's 195 dioceses have instituted programs and processes to help victims and educate employees and parishioners. A greater percentage of dioceses last year had moved to implement programs on sexual abuse -- 96 percent compared with 90 percent in 2003.

Seven dioceses and eparchies, which are dioceses of the Eastern Catholic Churches, were not in compliance by year's end. The diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, refused outright for the second year in a row to participate in the audits. Church officials said the bishop there has not faced censure or sanctions. The report noted that it does not evaluate the actual efficacy of the programs themselves.

"That's the next step: to see if people get quality service," McChesney said. "This is to see if people get service at all."

David Clohessy, executive director of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said he was heartened that more people were stepping forward to report abuse.

But he and other critics of the auditing effort argued that it did not address one of the crucial issues: the power of the bishops, many of whom, critics said, hid or played down reports of molestation by their priests, allowing the sexual abuse to continue.

"True reform would be bishops opening their files and punishing bishops who covered up the crimes," said Anne Doyle, co-director of bishopaccountability.org, an online clearinghouse of information and documents about the sex abuse scandals. "If they truly want Catholics to trust them, they have to expose themselves."

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