According to a new study released friday, there have been 4,392 priests accused in 10,667 cases of molesting minors from 1950 to 2002. Many more than
church officials had previously acknowledged. Researchers also said that there may be 3,000 additional victims who have not filed complaints.
The panel of lay Catholics who oversaw the studies rebuked the prelates for their insensitivity to victims. America's top bishop called it an
"urgent summons" for church leaders to help those who suffered.
"We have nothing to fear from the truth or from the past if we learn from it," said Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the U.S. Conference of
David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the studies released Friday were validating.
"It's one thing to say we suspect that there are still thousands out there. It's another thing to know it," he said.
The documents represent an unprecedented look at the abuse crisis, partly because they were done with the cooperation of church leaders.
The National Review Board, the lay panel, issued both a survey totaling molestation claims and costs, and a companion study explaining how the problem
In addition to the nearly 11,000 abuse claims over the decades, researchers also said that the nation's dioceses estimated there may be 3,000
additional victims who have not filed complaints.
About 4 percent of all American clerics who served during the time studied were accused of abuse. The percentage of abusers in society at large is
unknown because studies are inconclusive.
The new data provides a startling look at what victims endured.
About half were molested for a year or more, and 17 percent of families had more than one child victimized. The researchers noted that priests who had
just one claim against them often assaulted that one victim repeatedly. Relatively few priests committed only minor acts of abuse such as touching
over a victim's clothes, the researchers said.
Only 2 percent of abusers were sent to prison for what they had done.
"There is absolutely no excuse for what occurred in the Catholic Church," said Robert Bennett, a Washington attorney and review board member. "This
is not a media crisis or a personnel crisis. It's the age-old question of right and wrong, good and evil."
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[Edited on 28-2-2004 by Zion Mainframe]