Beyond the numbers

 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released two studies February 27, one on the number of incidents as well as the financial cost of the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy between 1950 and 2002, the other offering an evaluation of the data and possible explanations for the scandal. The first report, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, found that more than 10,667 children had been assaulted by 4,392 priests over the fifty-two-year period. That figure represents 4 percent of priests active during that time. The researchers cautioned that these numbers were probably low, because not all victims had come forward even now. According to the John Jay report and other news accounts, the church nationwide has spent close to three-quarters of a billion dollars on legal settlements, lawyers’ fees, and therapy for victims and perpetrators. The second study, conducted by the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People (NRB), the lay panel created by the bishops to probe “the causes and context of the crisis,” is a 158-page report. Commonweal will present further analysis of it in the March 26 issue. Here are some initial comments. First, neither report attempted to determine whether the sexual abuse of minors was more prevalent among Catholic priests than among other professional groups, such as schoolteachers, who routinely deal with children. It...

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