Two important documents regarding the scandal of child sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the United States are to be released in these days.The studies were done in fulfillment of the pledge in Article 9 of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at its meeting in November 2002.Article 9 reads, in part: "To understand the problem (of child sexual abuse by the clergy) more fully and to enhance the effectiveness of our future response, the National Review Board will commission a comprehensive study of the causes and context of the current crisis.The board will also commission a descriptive study, with the full cooperation of our dioceses/eparchies, of the nature and scope of the problem within the Catholic Church in the United States, including such data as statistics on perpetrators and victims."
Since I will receive the reports in question shortly before they are made public, I cannot comment on their specific content.What I can do and want to do is to provide for you both important background regarding the reports and the pertinent information regarding child sexual abuse by clergy of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The background will, I trust, help you to interpret more accurately the content of the reports.The information regarding our archdiocese will help you to see how much our local situation reflects the global situation of the Church in our nation and what is the particular challenge faced here.
What must be said from the start is that even a single act of sexual abuse of a child by a member of the clergy is a grave evil.Every reasonable means must be taken to avoid the commission of the crime of child sexual abuse by clergy, which violates a most sacred trust and can be the cause of profound and lasting harm to the victim.
The temptation in receiving a report with statistics is to view perpetrators and victims as numbers and, thereby, to distance ourselves from the grave evil of child sexual abuse by priests and deacons.Suffice it to say that the Church is committed to the healing of any victim of child sexual abuse by a member of the clergy and to the prevention of such abuse now and in the future.
What is the nature of the two reports?The first report is provided by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York.It is a quantitative analysis of the cases of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy in our nation from 1950 to 2002.
How was the report generated? The National Review Board, established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to assist and monitor the work of its Office for Child and Youth Protection (cf. Charter, Articles 8 and 9), commissioned the study.Each diocese, eparchy (the term for diocese in the Eastern Churches of the Catholic Church) and religious institute was sent a detailed and confidential questionnaire by the John Jay College some months ago.The questionnaire asked about the number of clergy who were alleged to be perpetrators of child sexual abuse, the number of alleged perpetrators who were exonerated and the total number of persons who brought allegations of child sexual abuse.It also asked for the amount of diocesan resources expended in addressing allegations of child sexual abuse by the clergy.
It is important to note that the study respected fully the anonymity of both alleged victims and alleged perpetrators.The goal of the study was simply to know globally, for the Catholic Church in the United States, the extent of the cases of child sexual abuse by her clergy and the impact of the cases on the Church’s temporal goods.
In reviewing the results of the study, it is important to keep the goal of the study in mind, namely to know the gravity of the problem in terms of its extent in our nation, so that it can be effectively addressed.The gravity of the individual cases of child sexual abuse by a member of the clergy is already painfully known to us.
No doubt, we will be disturbed by the total numbers for our nation.While we cannot change the terrible harm which has already been inflicted upon the Church and her members through crimes of child sexual abuse by some of her clergy, the report helps us to know the extent of the crime with which we are dealing and to continue addressing the matter as thoroughly as is humanly possible.
The report should be read in the context of the Implementation Report published by the Office for Child and Youth Protection in December 2003.The Implementation Report, which involved the audit of every diocese and eparchy by an independent agency, with regard to the implementation of the Charter, indicates the measures taken by each diocese and eparchy in our nation to protect our children and young people.
Each diocese or eparchy is to have a published policy and procedures for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, which is available to all the faithful.Each diocese or eparchy is to have a victim assistance coordinator to aid in the pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused as minors by clergy.
Bishops and eparchs, and their representatives, have met with victims and alleged victims to assist them in their healing.Each diocese or eparchy has its own review board which assists the bishop or eparch in assessing allegations and the responses to allegations, and in providing a safe environment for our children and young people.Training in developing and maintaining a safe environment has been provided to parishes, offices and agencies.Background checks are routinely made on all priests and seminarians, and other diocesan or eparchial personnel to make sure that there is no reported incidence of sexual misconduct or crime involving a minor.
The second report is a general study of the situation of child sexual abuse by clergy in the United States from 1950 to 2002, undertaken by the National Review Board.It is based chiefly on interviews conducted with some 60 individuals.It is to take into account the results of the quantitative study done by the John Jay College.
The Situation of the Archdiocese
In presenting to you the situation of child sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, I must, first of all, express my deepest appreciation for all of the work done by Cardinal Justin Rigali, my predecessor, and his staff during his years as Archbishop of St. Louis.The issue of sexual misconduct was already formally addressed by Cardinal Rigali’s predecessors.In 1990, the archdiocese published its "Policies, Procedures and Guidelines on Child Abuse."In 1995, a separate policy was developed to address specifically the question of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy.These two documents have been further refined through revisions and are widely available.
The archdiocesan child abuse committee, which is called the Gennesaret Committee, helps the archdiocese in addressing the grave problem of child sexual abuse.The members of the Gennesaret Committee, the majority of whom are laypersons not in the employ of the archdiocese, have the requisite knowledge and experience to provide much needed help to me in assessing allegations.The archdiocese is also served by the Child Safety Committee, which assists me in providing a safe environment for children in our parishes, schools and other institutions.
The archdiocese, under Cardinal Rigali’s leadership, developed a new policy on the code of conduct for priests, deacons, pastoral ministers, administrators, staff and volunteers. The policy sets a model for all who serve the faithful in the name of the archbishop. The team which audited the archdiocese for compliance with the Charter, from Aug. 4-8 of last year, especially commended the Archdiocese "[f]or continued and timely dedication to the ongoing improvement of policies for the protection of children and young people."
From 1950 to 2002, a total of 1,210 diocesan priests and 313 permanent deacons have served in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.The total number of members of the clergy of the archdiocese against whom allegations were brought forward since 1950 is 69.Allegations were also brought against one cleric from outside the archdiocese, regarding the time when he was residing in the archdiocese.Four priests were completely exonerated of allegations brought against them.
A total of 148 persons have alleged child sexual abuse by members of the clergy of the archdiocese and by extern priests residing in the archdiocese during the same period of time.
It must be noted that many of the allegations concern acts which are said to have happened several decades ago.Sometimes, it is simply not possible to establish whether the alleged act took place.In any case, the person bringing the allegation is always heard and, when appropriate, assistance is offered.
The archdiocese reported in its 2003 Annual Report that, from 1994 through 2003, it spent a total of $3,178,300 for assistance to alleged victims of child sexual abuse by clergy, legal fees related to clergy sexual abuse claims, and counseling for clergy related to sexual abuse of minors.From 1950 to 2002, the archdiocese spent a total of $2,101,462 in providing assistance to alleged victims of child sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy.The archdiocese has never paid money to a victim or alleged victim to obtain his or her silence about an allegation.Funds are provided to victims or alleged victims to assist with healing.
The giving of assistance does not constitute the admission that the alleged act of sexual abuse took place or, if it did take place, that the archdiocese knowingly permitted it to happen. Rather, the archdiocese, with the help of professionals, studies the needs of the victim or alleged victim and, when appropriate, provides assistance.
Once again, I express heartfelt sentiments of gratitude to Cardinal Rigali, Archbishop-elect Joseph F. Naumann, Bishop Robert J. Hermann and the other members of the archdiocesan staff who, working with Cardinal Rigali and Archbishop-elect Naumann, have developed so thorough a response to the evil of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in the archdiocese. I express a special note of gratitude to the members of the Gennesaret Committee for their highly qualified and most generous assistance.
Having reviewed the situation of the archdiocese in the matter of child sexual abuse, I conclude by inviting anyone who has been sexually abused by a member of the clergy or other archdiocesan personnel to come forward, so that the Church may address the truth of the matter and serve you with pastoral charity.This can be done by contacting Msgr. Richard F. Stika at the Catholic Center, (314) 633-2222.
For my part, I express my sincerest apology to those who have been abused by a member of the clergy or any other archdiocesan personnel.
I ask you to pray for all involved and to make acts of reparation for the healing of those who have been deeply hurt.The most efficacious way of healing the profound wounds inflicted upon the Church by the sins of her members is reparation through prayer and penance. If we give ourselves to prayer and penance in reparation for our sins and the sins of others, then we can be certain that God will not fail to provide us with an abundance of His graces of forgiveness and reconciliation.Your prayers and sacrifices will help very much the healing of the victims and of the perpetrators of acts of child sexual abuse.Please pray, too, that our nation will address the situation of child sexual abuse, so that all of our children may be protected from harm and grow to maturity, according to God’s plan for them.
The season of Lent which we have just entered is a time of strong grace for penance and reconciliation.During this holy season, let us place our hearts anew in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, asking God, in His infinite mercy, to heal the grievous wounds inflicted upon the Church in our nation through the crimes of sexual abuse, which have been committed by her clergy.
Finally, if any reader desires a copy of the Charter, of the conclusions of the audit of the archdiocese for compliance with the Charter or of the Policies, Procedures, and Guidelines on Child Abuse of the archdiocese, please contact my office, (314) 633-2277.I will be happy to provide you with a copy of the document or documents which you request.These documents are also available on the archdiocesan Web site: www.archstl.org.