Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Clergy abuse claims rose last year

Last updated March 13, 2009 5:41 a.m. PT
AP Newsbreak: Clergy abuse claims rose last year
NEW YORK -- Roman Catholic dioceses and religious orders saw a rise in molestation claims against clergy last year, according to a new report from U.S. bishops. Nearly all the 803 cases involved adults who said they had been abused as children decades ago.
Church leaders paid less in settlements, attorney fees and other abuse-related costs. Still, the amount reached just over $436 million, bringing the total payouts for abuse to more than $2.6 billion since 1950, according to studies commissioned by the prelates.
The statistics are part of an annual review of child safety in American dioceses and religious orders that is mandated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The report is set to be released Friday. The Associated Press obtained a copy.
As part of the review, auditors found that all but one of the dioceses they evaluated had fully implemented the bishops' child protection policies by the end of the year.
The safeguards include background checks for employees and volunteers, safe environment training for children and a discipline plan for offenders that removes them from any public church work. Dioceses increased their spending on safety programs to $23 million in 2008.
Two dioceses - in Lincoln, Neb. and Baker, Ore. - refused to participate in the audit. Five eparchies, or regional districts for parishes that follow the Eastern rite, also refused.
The reports from the bishops are part of the reforms they enacted in 2002, at the height of the scandal, which began with the case of one predatory priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread throughout the U.S. and beyond. Thousands of clergy have been accused since 1950.
The number of abuse claims in 2008 increased by 16 percent over 2007, when 691 claims were made. Similar to past years, more than 80 percent of the clergy accused in 2008 are dead, missing or already out of public ministry or the priesthood altogether. However, 40 percent of the men accused last year had never been named in previous abuse cases.
Following a pattern that researchers discovered in previous studies, most of the people who made claims last year were men and more than half said they were between the ages of 10 and 14 when they were molested. Only 30 percent of the new claims came through attorneys; about half of the victims came forward on their own.

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