700 Priests and Deacons Removed Since January '02

4% of Ranks Accused of Sexual Abuse in 52-Year Period

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WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 27, 2004 (Zenit.org).- About 700 priests and deacons have been removed from ministry in Catholic dioceses since January 2002 because of policies aimed at sexual abuse, says the president of the U.S. episcopate.



Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the episcopate, in a statement today said: "In January, on the occasion of the release of the Charter Implementation Report, I was asked how many priests had been removed from ministry on account of the commitment made by the bishops in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted in June 2002."

"At that time I was unable to answer with any degree of confidence" because the data were available, he said.

"It was suggested at the time that the number might be available through the John Jay College study, 'The Nature and Scope of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States 1950-2002,'" the bishop said. "However, the John Jay study does not indicate that number and subsumes it within its aggregate count of priests and deacons."

"Accordingly I had USCCB staff make another evaluation and follow-up. The results indicate that about 700 priests and deacons have been removed from ministry in Catholic dioceses since January 2002 in anticipation of or on account of the bishops' Charter commitments. That number is not in addition to the number reported by John Jay College but is within the number reported."

Bishop Gregory's comments came as the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the bishops, issued two studies documenting sexual-abuse problems from 1950 to 2002.

One report found there have been 10,667 abuse claims over those 52 years. More than 80% of the alleged victims were male and over half said they were between ages 11 and 14 when they were assaulted, the Associated Press said.

About 4% of all American clerics who served during the years studied -- 4,392 of the 109,694 priests and others under vows -- were accused of abuse.

The second review-board report examines the causes of the molestation crisis and puts much of the blame on American bishops for not cracking down on errant priests, the AP said.