The US Conference of Catholic Bishops released a report this week supposedly showing the number of sexual abuse allegations made against American priests last year. How the data in the report should be interpreted depends on your point of view.
The report indicated that there were 594 new credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest during 2011. That’s more than a 15 percent increase over the previous year.
However, the Conference of Catholic Bishops is quick to point out that “only” 23 of the new allegations involved children who were under the age of 18 in 2010 or 2011. In other words, the Bishops are trying to suggest that the problem of sexual abuse by priests is an historical one and that there are few current cases of sexual abuse by priests.
Needless to say, the Conference of Bishops puts the best possible spin on the report. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the USCCP President, said that the report: “Supports the conclusion of both studies done by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice – that the majority of allegations are way in the past.” Of course, it’s not actually clear that the Jay report’s conclusions said any such thing.
Repressed Memory and Delayed Disclosure
This of course ignores the fact that victims of abuse often conceal what happened to them for years, even decades, before finally disclosing to their family, friends or therapists. Sometimes victims traumatic memories are repressed until they are triggered later in life.
Given the serious flaws with the Jay report, it is difficult to give much credibility to any conclusions arising from the report. For a more detailed discussion you can take a look at my article The Catholic Church and Sexual Abuse: Is the church’s response real action - or window dressing?
A couple of interesting facts from the report:
More than 6000 priests have been accused of sexually assaulting children in the United States since 1950.
Last year, allegations were made by 588 people against 461 priests.
More Accusations than Ordinations
Only 275 priests were actually ordained in the United States last year, so that means that the number of allegations against priests is actually outpacing the number of priests being ordained.
For those that are interested the website bishopaccountability.org has assembled an exhaustive database from a variety of sources outlining the total number of abuse allegations made against priests by year and the number of survivors along with references to supporting documents.
Given the thousands of priests that have had credible allegations of sexual abuse made against them and the hundreds of victims who have had the courage to come forward, it is astonishing that no Bishop, Cardinal, or Vatican official has ever been sanctioned or criminally charged for knowingly transferring abusive priests or covering up sexual offences against children.
What about Canada?
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops does not keep a database similar to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. At least, not one that they make public.
This information would be readily available to dioceses across Canada. In fact, Bishops in each diocese are required by Canon Law to keep a record of priests accused of abuse.
There can be only one reason why this information is not being collected or made public. It is because the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops does not want to know how a big a problem sexual abuse by priests actually is here in Canada.
Want More information?
For almost twenty years I have dedicated my practice to representing survivors of childhood sexual abuse. I wrote Breaking the Silence: The Survivor’s Guide to Sexual Abuse Claims so that abuse survivors and their families can get good solid information about their legal options, privately and confidentially.
If you would like a copy of Breaking the Silence, you can buy a copy of the book on Amazon.com (all profits are donated to charity) or you can receive a free copy of the book by contacting me through this blog, or my website at www.apmlawyers.com or by calling toll free in Atlantic Canada 1-866-974-8281.