US Prelate: Church Doing More to Keep Children Safe

Study Shows Sharp Decline in Abuse Cases

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BALTIMORE, Maryland, NOV. 17, 2009 (Zenit.org).- In response to a report on child abuse cases by clergy, Bishop Blase Cupich of Rapid City, South Dakota, notes that no other organization is doing as much as the Church to keep children safe.

The prelate, the chairman of the U.S. bishops' conference Committee for the Protection of Children and Young People, affirmed this today in Baltimore, where the conference is holding its fall general assembly.

Today's session included an interim report by researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice on a Causes and Context Study regarding sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

The study, commissioned by the conference in 2002 when it adopted the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," is due to be completed at the end of 2010.

The study was pursued in order to "understand more fully the problem of clergy sexual abuse and what needs to be done to keep children safe in the Church's care," a conference communiqué noted.

The bishops allocated $1 million for this purpose, and over $900,000 came from other donors, including a federal grant from the National Institute of Justice.

Karen Terry, one of the researchers, stated that there was an indisputable increase nationwide in child sexual abuse cases in the 60s and 70s, although the cause is unknown. This number declined sharply in 1985 and has continued to decrease, she said.

Deviant behavior

Terry made the point that the incidence of abuse cases by clergy matches the rising and falling trend in the number of cases reported outside the Church.

When asked why many cases seem to involve accusations against clergy in particular, she responded that "there is a difference between what the media is reporting and what is actually happening."

The researcher reported that this deviant sexual behavior also matches the patterns of other societal behavioral problems between 1960 and 1990, such as crime, drug use and divorce. In other words, there was a general rise and fall in all of these problematic behaviors nationwide.

She noted that 80% of the cases involved boys, but when asked whether homosexuality was a factor in predicting abuse, Terry acknowledged that sexual behavior was being evaluated separately from sexual identity.

The researchers stated that they plan to make recommendations based on the conclusions of the data.

At this point, they were able to report those clergy who received human formation in the seminary were significantly less likely to abuse children later in life.

The study found a significant change in the diocesan response to charges of abuse over 50 years, including more administrative leave being given to abusers, and less cases of reinstatement.

Improvements

Another researcher, Maggie Smith, commended the Church for "attempting to provide meaningful work even for those who have been sexual offenders."

Bishop Cupich affirmed that a lot of the data from this study has already been used to improve safe environment training in the dioceses.

No other organization has undertaken such a comprehensive study on this issue, he stated, nor taken such measures to ensure the protection of minors.

We are willing to show our commitment by having an audit every year to make sure we are compliant with the safe environment program, the bishop said.

He reiterated, "No other organization is doing this much."

Thus, the prelate said, "there is no safer place today for children than the Catholic Church."

He urged other prelates to remain close to victims of abuse, to rely on the help that they can offer in resolving these problems of the past. As well, he said, being connected with these victims will help us remember the importance of this work.