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USCCB issues annual audit on compliance with charter by dioceses, eparchies

Number of abuse allegations declined by more than 1,000; all but 30 allegations were historical in nature

WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops’ annual report on compliance with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” shows that 2,930 victim survivors came forward with 3,103 allegations during the audit year of July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

The number of allegations is 1,149 less than the number reported in 2020, according to the audit report released July 12 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection.

“This decrease is due in large part to the resolution of allegations received as a result of lawsuits, compensation programs and bankruptcies,” according to a news release accompanying the report. “Of the allegations received, 2,284 (74%) were first brought to the attention of the diocesan/eparchial representative by an attorney.”

The majority of allegations received were “historical in nature,” meaning the alleged victim is now an adult and the abuse happened in years or decades past. During this audit year, there were 30 new allegations.

The report is based on the audit findings of StoneBridge Business Partners, a specialty consulting firm based in Rochester, New York. Also included in the report are results of a survey on allegations conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown.

The charter was adopted in 2002 by the U.S. bishops following widespread reports of clergy abuse and has been revised since to adapt to changing situations surrounding the question of clergy sexual abuse of minors. It was revised in 2005, 2011 and 2018.

Of the new allegations made by current minors, six were substantiated; nine are still under investigation; nine were unsubstantiated; five could not be proven; and one was referred to the provincial of a religious order.

“This year’s audit, once again, shows that new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in the Catholic Church in the United States,” Los Angeles Archbishop José H. Gomez, USCCB president, said in a preface to the report. He added that “every offender was removed from ministry. Every allegation was reported to law enforcement.”

“As we know, one allegation of abuse is too many,” he said, “But my brother bishops and I remain firmly committed to maintain our vigilance in protecting children and vulnerable adults and providing compassion and outreach to victim-survivors of abuse.”

The report shows that dioceses and eparchies provided outreach and support to 285 victim survivors and their families who reported an allegation during the audit period. Continued support was provided to 1,737 victim survivors who had reported in prior audit periods.

In 2021, the Church conducted 1,964,656 background checks on clergy, employees and volunteers. In addition, more than 2 million adults and over 2.4 million children and youth were trained in how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

Data from CARA said the costs related to allegations for diocese and eparchies for fiscal year 2021 totaled $194,120,218. This figure is 38% less — or $117,860,448 less — than the grand total of $311,980,666 for fiscal year 2020.

“Six-tenths of the payments made by dioceses and eparchies between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, were for settlements to victims (61%) and almost a quarter of the total cost is for attorney’s fees (23%),” CARA said.

There were four instances of noncompliance due to the inactivity of their review boards: the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Texas; the Diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana; the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota; and the Eparchy of Newton were found noncompliant with Article 2 of the charter.

Article 2 requires they have a lay-run review board that functions as a confidential consultative body to the bishop/eparch. Subsequent convening of the review boards of the dioceses and the eparchy brought each of them into compliance with Article 2.

Three eparchies and one diocese did not participate in the audit: the Chaldean Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle, the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, St. Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, and the Diocese of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

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