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Posted December 20, 2003

The Cost of Sexual Abuse to the Church since 1950

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- As 2003 drew to a close, several dioceses released figures on the number of clergymen accused of sex abuse of minors since 1950 and on the money spent in settlements and on related issues.

The dioceses collected the figures as part of a national survey commissioned by the U.S. bishops to examine the scope of the clergy sex abuse scandal. National figures are scheduled for release Feb. 27, with dioceses free to release their figures at a different date.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis announced that 33 priests -- 26 archdiocesan priests and seven priests from religious orders or other dioceses working in the archdiocese -- had credible allegations of abuse brought against them by 69 people.

These represent 1.1 percent of all priests serving the archdiocese since 1950, said a Dec. 10 archdiocesan announcement. It added that all allegations involved incidents that reportedly occurred before 1988.

The archdiocese said that about $6.7 million has been spent on sex abuse matters, with none of the funds coming from annual contributions by parishioners.

More than $4 million came from archdiocesan insurers and the rest came from special reserves and from a clergy benefit fund established 80 years ago by two prominent St. Paul, Minn., families, it said.

The release of archdiocesan figures and the February reporting of national statistics "will respond to the commitment to transparency that we promised," said Archbishop Harry J. Flynn of St. Paul-Minneapolis.

The archbishop is chairman of the U.S. bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse.

In the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., 53 priests have been accused of abuse by 121 people since 1950, according to the diocese. The diocese said that it has reasonable cause to believe the allegations against 18 of the 53 priests and that these 18 priests are no longer in active ministry.

The report was published in the Dec. 4 issue of The Evangelist, diocesan newspaper. The 18 priests removed from ministry represent 2.2 percent of the 814 priests who have served in the diocese since 1950, it said.

Of the remaining allegations, 15 priests are currently being investigated, 11 priests have been cleared and nine cases cannot be investigated at this time because nine priests are dead and two resigned from ministry long before accusations surfaced, said the report.

Since 1950 the diocese has spent $3 million to compensate victims and $1 million on counseling, legal fees and related costs, with all the money coming from the diocesan insurance fund, said the report.

Albany Bishop Howard J. Hubbard said there has been "a dramatic decline" in the number of accusations in recent years. The cases peaked in the 1960s and 1970s, and only 2.1 percent of the allegations involve incidents since 1990, he said.

Bishop Hubbard said he released the data to update parishioners and in keeping with a recommendation by the bishops' Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, of which he is a member.

The committee "has urged dioceses to release their information sooner, rather than later," he said.

In the New Orleans Archdiocese, eight priests and two deacons have had credible allegations of sex abuse of minors made against them since 1950, said a report released Dec. 3 by Archbishop Alfred C. Hughes.

He said the numbers represent less than 1 percent of the priests and deacons working in the archdiocese during that time period. The report said that the 10 clerics are no longer in ministry and that the accusations were made by 34 people.

Allegations against 10 other clerics were also presented during the time period but seven were deemed "not credible" and three were deemed "inconclusive" and are still being reviewed, said the report.

More than $2 million has been paid in legal settlements, therapy and legal fees, with the archdiocese paying for half and insurance companies paying the remainder, said the report.

No parish or social services have been affected by the money paid by the archdiocese, as the funds came from reserves used for contingency spending, said the report.

"Both abuser and victim are in need of prayer, reconciliation and healing," said Archbishop Hughes.

Bishop Joseph V. Adamec of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., said that the diocese had 16 credible allegations made against priests since 1950 while allegations against another 11 "were not able to be substantiated."

Of the 16 priests, three are dead, eight have been suspended from public ministry, one has been dismissed from the clerical state and the cases of four others are being reviewed by the Vatican, said the bishop in an Advent pastoral letter dated Dec. 1.

Bishop Adamec said that 37 people made accusations and that the 16 credible cases represent "2.5 percent of the priests calculated to have served in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown" during the time period.

Without disclosing the sums involved, the bishop said the diocese has reached settlements with some victims and provided financial assistance for therapy sessions for some victims and priests. He said that a diocesan medical account has paid for the therapy.

In the Diocese of Gallup, N.M., there were credible accusations against eight priests and deacons involving 11 minors, said a report issued Nov. 29. The report added that since 1950, 494 priests and permanent deacons have worked in the diocese. This means that credible allegations involved only 1.6 percent of the clergy.

"The good does not make up for the bad, but neither does the bad wipe out the good," said Gallup Bishop Donald E. Pelotte.

The report said that $190,000 had been paid in settlements with $15,000 paid out directly by the diocese. Its insurance carrier paid $40,000 and $135,000 was paid by a local institute.

None of the funds came from parishes, nor were diocesan services affected, said the report.

In the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., 42 people made accusations against 14 diocesan and four religious-order priests, said Bishop Dennis M. Schnurr in a letter posted in December on the diocesan Web site.

"One accused priest was exonerated and one allegation was withdrawn," said Bishop Schnurr.

Of the others, some have died, others were already retired at the time of the allegations and those who were in parish positions "left in response to the allegation," he said.

"There are no priests in active ministry in the Diocese of Duluth who have been accused of the sexual abuse of a minor," he said.

The Diocese of Manchester, N.H., on Dec. 13 announced that since the late 1940s it has settled 227 child sex abuse cases for a total of $20.3 million. Most of the cases -- 207 -- have been settled since July 2001 for a total of $18.9 million, said a stewardship report posted on the diocesan Web site.

The report said that as of Dec. 1 there were four outstanding cases.

The number of priests accused was not given in the report.

Over 40 percent of the settlement funds have been or will be paid by insurers and the rest will come from loans and a previously established insurance fund, said the report.

In December 2002, the diocese signed a legally binding agreement with the New Hampshire state attorney general's office acknowledging that it could have been convicted of failing to protect minors from clergy sex abusers. The agreement avoided prosecution of the diocese and gave the attorney general's office oversight of diocesan policies dealing with sex abuse of children.

Since the Miami Archdiocese was founded in 1958, 38 priests have faced allegations of sex abuse of minors, said an archdiocesan report released Dec. 13 and posted on the archdiocesan Web site.

The allegations involve less that 1 percent of the priests who have worked in the archdiocese since 1958, it said.

The report added that the archdiocese paid $9.3 million in settlement, legal and counseling costs for sex abuse cases involving priests, laity, and religious brothers and sisters. It did not say how many lay people and religious brothers and sisters were involved.

The money came from insurance programs, it said, without specifying the types of programs.

"I assure you that no parish funds were used to pay any lawsuits -- whether for claims of sexual abuse or any other alleged injury," said Miami Archbishop John C. Favalora in a letter accompanying the report.

In the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., there were 33 credible allegations against 16 priests since 1950, less than 2 percent of the priests working in the diocese during that time period, said a Dec. 11 report by Bishop John M. D'Arcy.

Accusations against 11 other priests could not be substantiated, it said.

Since 1985, when Bishop D'Arcy became head of the diocese, $1.4 million has been spent on settlements and other sex abuse related costs, said the report posted on the diocesan Web site.

The diocese paid $835,000 with the rest coming from insurers, it said.

Diocesan payments were made from reserves and investment funds, it said.

Since the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., was founded in 1968 there have been credible accusations against 10 priests, said Bishop Robert N. Lynch in a letter to the people of the diocese made public Dec. 11.

Bishop Lynch named the 10 priests. Many dioceses releasing data have kept the names of priests secret.

The diocese has paid $750,000 in settlements with a further $311,000 going for counseling, legal services and to establish safe environment programs, he said.

Money paid to victims has come from insurers or existing reserves in diocesan insurance funds, he said.

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