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10,000 Children Abused
Shock Report Hits Priests

MORE than 10,000 children were sexually abused by predatory Catholic priests in the US during the past half- century in what the church itself has described as "a terrible history".
A study commissioned by American Catholic bishops shows one in ten priests in the ordination class of 1970 was a deviant and overall 4392 of the 109,694 priests serving between 1950 and 2002 were accused of sexual abuse.
The shocking statistics were contained in a report prepared by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice based on survey results from 97 per cent of America's 196 Catholic dioceses.
Of the 10,667 youngsters abused during the 52 years the survey covered, 81 per cent were male and most were aged between 11 and 17.
A smaller proportion - 16 per cent - were aged eight to 10. More than half of the reported incidents were serious offences involving sex or attempted sex acts.
A group of prominent lay Catholics appointed by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 to review the church's efforts to curtail sex abuse, described the situation as "a crisis of trust and faith" in a related report released yesterday.
The National Review Board's 145-page report said the "grievously sinful" acts of priests and "shameful" inaction during the decades of abuse had left the church "deeply wounded".
And as a consequence, "its ability to speak clearly and credibly on moral issues has been seriously impaired", said the Board, which interviewed more than 85 people - including Vatican officials.
The John Jay figures show while 56 per cent of accused priests had one accusation levelled against them, 149 priests were the subject of 10 or more complaints and responsible for abusing 2960 of the victims.
Just 14 per cent of the accused priests were reported to police by their bishops and 95 per cent of the 4392 errant clerics were never charged with a crime.
The same study also listed the enormous financial burden the sex abuse scandal has placed upon the Catholic church in the US, with victim compensation payouts, legal fees and psychological and counselling services for accused priests totaling more than $740m.
In releasing the two reports yesterday, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Wilton Gregory, apologised to victims and claimed sex abusers had been weeded out from the clergy.
"The terrible history recorded here today is history," he said.
The president of victims rights advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Barbara Blaine, said the figure of 10,667 victims was low.
"We know that normally, a perpetrator abuses up to 150 victims in a lifetime and, in the general population, only five to ten per cent of sex abuse victims come forward," said Ms Blaine.

Adelaide Advertiser (29-2-2004)

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