dioceses nationwide have taught more than 6 million
children to protect themselves from sexual predators and
have conducted 1.6 million background checks on
workers in response to the clergy sex abuse crisis,
according to a new report.
Auditors hired by
America's bishops have found that nearly all of the 195
U.S. dioceses have policies for reviewing molestation claims
and reporting allegations to the authorities, the
National Review Board, a lay watchdog group, said in
the report released Thursday. The diocese of Lincoln,
Neb., and four Eastern Rite districts called eparchies have
not participated in the audits.
improvements, church leaders must do more, including
measuring the effectiveness of the safeguards they've
put in place and deepening the church's understanding
of what victims suffer, the panel said.
victims provide evidence of serious needs that still
must be addressed in order for the victims and their
families to find the healing that they need,'' the
The report is a
review of the board's work on the fifth anniversary of
Conference of Catholic Bishops created the lay panel to
monitor diocesan reforms enacted in 2002 at the height
of the abuse crisis.
erupted with the case of an accused priest in the
archdiocese of Boston, then spread nationwide and
beyond. More than 13,000 molestation claims have been
made to dioceses, which have paid more than $2 billion
in settlements since 1950, according to separate studies
conducted for the bishops.
protection plan that the bishops adopted in the wake of the
crisis bars guilty clergy from any public church work,
raising complex questions about how dioceses can
supervise the priests after they're removed. In some
cases the Vatican has laicized, or defrocked, offenders.
They have left the church completely.
Review Board has been encouraging bishops to conduct random
parish audits to check how well the reforms are working and
learn what approaches are the most effective. This
year, several dioceses volunteered for parish audits
in a pilot program that the board hopes will be a
environment working group made up of board members,
bishops, and consultants has been studying how
children in dioceses have been taught to identify
inappropriate conduct, looking at age and grade
appropriateness and church teaching relevant to the
The group made
recommendations based on its review, but those conclusions
have not been made public, said U.S. district judge Michael
Merz, chairman of the review board.
board also recommended best strategies for local diocesan
review boards that help individual bishops evaluate abuse
claims. A bishops' panel is reviewing the suggestions.
year, only one third of dioceses will be required to have
an audit, although others can volunteer for a review. No
plan is in place yet for how to choose them, Merz
the need for more attention to victims, the board said
that bishops should be more aware of how a parish suffers
when its priest is removed.
become victims of sexual abuse,'' the board said.
''Members of parishes experience both a sense of betrayal or
outrage over accusations that led to the removal of a
the board said bishops must work harder to repair
relations with priests, ''many of whom feel alienated from
both the bishops and laity'' because of the scandal.
The board urged
bishops to work faster in reviewing claims and restoring
wrongly accused priests to the pulpit.
of false accusations is very, very uncommon,'' said
Merz, who sits in the Southern District of Ohio. But the
board has heard ''anecdotally'' from priests' groups
about slow justice for wrongly accused clergy. (AP)