The impression you get
from skimming the media is that the US Catholic Church is full of child
molesters. This is nonsense. The latest figures show the fewest number of victims, allegations and offenders in dioceses
since 2004. Most cases reported to dioceses were from decades ago.

In 2009
there were 398 allegations and 286 offenders reported to dioceses, most from
earlier decades. Of the allegations reported in 2009, six allegations (2
percent) involved children under the age of 18 in 2009. About an eighth of the
allegations in 2009 (48) were unsubstantiated or determined to be false by the
end of the year. Most allegations cited were against pre-teen or teenage males
and occurred decades ago. 

Data for the 2009
calendar year
were collected by the Georgetown University-based Center for
Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). It began gathering data on sexual
abuse of minors by clerics in 2004 as part of the bishops’ annual report on
compliance with the Charter.

 “For the majority of new allegations (71 percent) brought to
dioceses, the abuse began between 1960 and 1984. The most common time period
for allegations reported in 2009 was 1975-1979,” CARA noted.

The payout was enormous, but it is
declining. Costs paid by dioceses for settlements, therapy for victims, support
of offenders, attorney fees and other costs amounted to $104,439,629 in 2009.
Of this total, 53 percent was for settlements with victims and another six
percent for therapy for victims if not already included in settlements. This
was an 83 percent decrease from 2008.

A letter from Diane Knight, chair of
the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops National Review Board, to
Cardinal George noted the need for vigilance and warned against complacency.  “There will always be human beings who
are attracted to children, and children will therefore always be at risk,”
cautioned Ms. Knight, a social worker with more than 40 years of experience.  ~ from the USCCB press release
of March 23

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet. He lives in Sydney, Australia.