IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Archdiocese says about 7% of priests accused

The Boston Archdiocese, epicenter of the clergy sex abuse crisis that has shaken the Catholic Church, released a report yesterday showing that 162 of its priests have been accused of molesting 815 minors since 1950.
/ Source: The Union Leader

The Boston Archdiocese, epicenter of the clergy sex abuse crisis that has shaken the Catholic Church, released a report yesterday showing that 162 of its priests have been accused of molesting 815 minors since 1950.

More than half the incidents were linked to just seven priests, the report said.

The number of priests alleged to have molested people is about 7 percent of the 2,324 ordained priests who served in the archdiocese during that time, which do not include priests who were members of religious orders or priests from other dioceses who served in Boston, according to statistics released by church officials.

Boston Archbishop Sean O'Malley called the numbers "truly horrific."

"One incident of child abuse is too many, one child hurt too much," O'Malley said in a statement. "We must all do everything that we can to make sure that the scourge of child abuse not only within the church but in the wider society as well is wiped clean from our midst."

The statistics were compiled as part of a nationwide survey of clergy sex abuse conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

The Diocese of Manchester reported 55 priests were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors between the 1940s and 2002.

Of the 55 priests, 52 were diocesan priests; three were from other dioceses but were serving in New Hampshire with the bishop's permission.

The 55 accused priests represent 6.6 percent of the 831 priests who served in New Hampshire between 1943 and 2002, the diocese reported.

As of Dec. 1, 2003, the Manchester diocese reached civil settlements with 227 survivors of clergy sexual abuse, paying out a total $20,251,900 in claims, according to the diocese's stewardship and financial report released last December. Four requests for settlements have yet to be resolved.

National report

Last night, it was announced that a national church-sanctioned study documenting sex abuse by U.S. Roman Catholic clergy found that about 4 percent of clerics have been accused of molesting minors since 1950.

The Diocese of Yakima, Wash., said in a news release that the survey found 4,392 of the 109,694 clergy who served over that five-decade period faced allegations of abuse.

The report is scheduled to be released today at a news conference in Washington. The report was overseen by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by American bishops after public outrage over the scandal reached a crescendo in 2002.

While the national study will not break down numbers by dioceses, many bishops have released their local figures to demonstrate their commitment to fighting abuse.

The Associated Press has been tracking those numbers and, as of yesterday, 137 of the 195 U.S. dioceses reported accusations against 3,062 clergy. The tally of abuse claims is 7,567 so far, already higher than any previous estimate by victims' groups.

Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who has represented hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims, called his archdiocesan report "an insult to victims everywhere."

"We have an entity here that has allowed the wholesale sexual abuse of children by clergy, and to allow them to count the numbers just doesn't make any sense," Garabedian said. "There is a huge credibility problem here."

September settlement

The scandal began after internal church files revealed the Rev. John Geoghan and many other priests were transferred from parish to parish rather than removed from ministry after they were accused of abusing children.

In December 2002, Cardinal Bernard Law resigned as archbishop of Boston - the nation's fourth-largest diocese - amid a storm of criticism over his handling of the crisis.

More than 550 victims of abusive priests reached an $85 million settlement with the archdiocese last September, the largest known payout by a U.S. diocese to settle molestation charges.

A draft of the national survey seen by CNN earlier this month showed that 4,450 clergy have been accused of molesting minors since 1950. The draft survey said 11,000 abuse claims have been filed against the U.S. churchmen during that period, CNN reported.

The numbers released by the Boston Archdiocese yesterday differ slightly from an estimate made by Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Reilly in July following a 16-month investigation into clergy abuse in Boston. Reilly's investigation found priests and other church workers had likely molested more than 1,000 people over six decades, from 1940 to 2000.

Group questions figures

David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the numbers released by the Boston Archdiocese come nowhere near documenting the actual number of abusive priests or victims.

"These numbers need to be taken with a mountain of salt," Clohessy said. "We'll never know the full truth because victims don't tell, and only the most naive would assume that church officials have done a complete 180-degree turn and are now telling everything they know."

Boston attorney Roderick MacLeish Jr., whose law firm won an unprecedented court ruling ordering the archdiocese to turn over the church personnel files for all priests who had an allegation of sexual abuse made against them, said he believes the archdiocese's estimate is low.

But he said the study reflects "a good faith attempt" by O'Malley to show the pervasiveness of sexual abuse by priests.

"The church has traditionally underreported the numbers, so I commend the archbishop for these new numbers, but it in no way reflects the actual number of priests involved in abuse or those who were complicit in the abuse," MacLeish said.

"We know there are many, many more victims who did not come forward . . . and these numbers do not include the priests who, on a day-to-day basis, had information to believe priests were abusing kids, but they said nothing."

But former Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, praised the report as an important attempt by the church to publicly acknowledge the extent of the problem.

"The openness here now that is being exhibited is an opportunity for lay Catholics to understand the problem and commit themselves to being active so that what happened in the past never happens to another child in the future," Flynn said.

Union Leader Staff Writer Kathryn Marchocki contributed to this report.

Report covers 1950 to 2003

Highlights from the Boston Archdiocese's report on sexual abuse by priests between 1950 and 2003:

From 1950 to December 2003, a total of 162 priests were alleged to have sexually abused 815 minors;

The number of priests accused is roughly 7 percent of the 2,324 priests who served in the archdiocese during that time;

Of the 815 victims, more than half were abused by just seven priests;

More than half the alleged abuse took place between 1965 and 1982, while the abuse declined precipitously after 1982;

More than half the 815 cases were reported after the clergy sex abuse scandal went public in January 2002;

Of the 162 priests, 58 are dead;

In addition to the 815 accusations against priests of the archdiocese, 150 people made abuse allegations against 44 members of religious orders, 10 visiting priests and three deacons.

Source: Archdiocese of Boston