Initial Step

The release on January 6, 2004, of the audit report by the Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) provides reason for cautious hope. It is the first report card on how each U.S. diocese or eparchy is carrying out the bishops’ 2002 Dallas Charter to insure the protection of young people from clerical sexual abuse. Some initial disappointment and confusion greeted the report. It does not provide cumulative figures as to the extent, duration, and costs of the abuse. As mandated, the audit concentrated on analyzing each diocese’s compliance with the Dallas Charter in the one year since it was promulgated. A second report, to be issued in late February under the auspices of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, will deal with the broader nature and scope of the sexual-abuse scandal. Catholics should be prepared for more disheartening news when that study is issued.

The John Jay report will not only spell out the numbers of victims, perpetrators, and the costs, it is likely to encourage other victims to step forward. It will reinforce the sense the laity has had, since the abuse scandal broke two years ago, that they have been betrayed by a hierarchy intent on protecting the church’s reputation, not its children.

Both the OCYP and the John Jay reports are necessary responses, however, and the bishops (97 percent of whom are cooperating with...

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