Annual audit of Church’s abuse allegations shows cautious improvement

WASHINGTON — The 15th annual report on the implementation of the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" shows a decrease in allegations of clergy sex abuse from the two previous years but also indicates the need for continued vigilance since charges were raised by more than 650 adults and 24 minors.

According to the charter, of the 24 new allegations raised by minors as of June 30, 2017, six were substantiated and the clergy were removed from ministry. These allegations came from three different dioceses and four of the six allegations were against the same priest. Eight allegations were unsubstantiated as of June 30, 2017. Three were categorized as "unable to be proven" and five investigations were still ongoing at the time of the audit.

The overall decrease in allegations coupled with the fact that charges of abuse are still being made is something Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, which oversees the audits, finds troubling.

In introductory remarks to the report released June 1, he said: "While progress continues to be made, there are worrisome signs for the future revealed in this year's audit that cannot be ignored."

He said he was most concerned by signs of general complacency such as a shortage of resources available to fully implement programs, failure by some dioceses to complete background checks in a timely manner and, in some cases, poor record keeping.

Cesareo wrote that this "apparent complacency" could indicate that some in the Church think "sexual abuse of minors by the clergy is now an historic event of the past."

This view would be untrue, as the current report indicates, he said, adding: "Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must rededicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance that will not permit complacency to set in or result in a less precise and thorough implementation of the charter."

The newly released report — based on audits conducted between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2017 – shows that 654 adults came forward with 695 allegations. Compared to 2015 and 2016, the number of allegations decreased significantly due to fewer bankruptcy proceedings and statute of limitations changes. The report also notes that 1,702 victims/survivors received ongoing support and that all dioceses and eparchies that received an allegation of sexual abuse during the 2017 audit year reported them to the appropriate civil authorities.

The report acknowledges the Church's ongoing efforts to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults pointing out that in 2017, more than 2.5 million background checks were conducted on Church clergy, employees and volunteers and more than 2.5 million adults and 4.1 million children have been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

Regarding compliance with the charter, two eparchies and one diocese did not participate in the audit this year and all 191 participating dioceses were found in compliance. Of the 63 dioceses/eparchies participating in the on-site audits, three eparchies were found noncompliant. 

The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, gathers data for the report, and StoneBridge Business Partners, based in Rochester, New York, conducts the annual audits. 

Two-year process to revise bishops' protection charter nears completion

NEW ORLEANS — The chair of the U.S. bishops' Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People said a two-year project to revise the charter that guides the U.S. Church in protecting minors from sexual abuse is nearly ready to be presented to the full body of bishops.

Bishop Timothy L. Doherty of Lafayette, Ind., the committee chairman, told the 13th annual Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference in New Orleans that the proposed revisions of the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" will be discussed and voted on at the bishops' June 13-14 spring general assembly in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"The great thing people should know is that this has been a collaboration among a lot of bishops' committees and the National Review Board, who are professional people — judges, lawyers, therapists, trauma experts," Bishop Doherty said. "There's a lot of healthy conversation there, and our Church can be very proud of the people who are working toward the protection of children."

The annual conference June 3-6 attracted more than 150 people from across the U.S. working in areas of safe environment, victims' assistance and pastoral care.

Providing a snapshot for how the Church has responded over the past 15 years to the sexual abuse of minors, Bishop Doherty said "the good news" is that "there have been really solid efforts in individual dioceses for the protection of children and vulnerable people."

— Peter Finney Jr., Catholic News Service

No votes yet