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Audit finds increase in child protection, decrease in reported cases

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by Adelaide Mena for Catholic News Agency

Washington D.C., Apr 4, 2014 / 02:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- An audit of the dioceses across the United States shows an increase of more than $15 million spent on child protection efforts, and a decrease in the number of reported cases of sexual abuse.

“Much work has been done to keep children in the care of the Church safe, but we must not think the work is finished,” said Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, in a March 1 statement on the report.

“Though our promise to protect and heal made in 2002 remains strong, we must not become complacent with what has been accomplished. It is my hope and prayer that as we continue to fulfill our promise, the Church will help to model ways of addressing and bringing to light the darkness and evil of abuse wherever it exists.”

The report, “2013 Survey of Allegations and Costs: A Summary Report for the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops,” was released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a research organization based out of Georgetown University, with results compiled from an audit performed by StoneBridge Business Partners.

All but one of the dioceses in the United States, and all but three of the eparchies participated in the audit, with the Diocese of Lincoln and the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle for Chaldeans, the Eparchy of Our Lady of Nareg for Armenians and the Eparchy of Stamford for Ukrainians refusing to participate.

The audit was conducted with reports filed July 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013, during which time 936 allegations of abuse were reported by 857 survivors of clergy sexual abuse reported in 191 dioceses.

The report found 10 cases in which a credible allegation had been made of abuse against a person who is currently a minor; these cases are under investigation, but the clergy member had not been removed from their post. Of the 10, seven are new allegations, and three are from previous, ongoing reports.

The survey investigated cases of abuse ranging from the 1920s to the present day, and the report indicated that most instances of abuse reported during 2013 took place between 1970 and 1979.

The overall figure is a decline from reports from 921 survivors during the previous audit period. The survey also found that  472 allegations had been found by the audit to be “unable to be proven”; 223 had an investigation ongoing; 136 were deemed “substantiated”; 78 “unsubstantiated”; and 27 had not yet been investigated.

Three quarters of the alleged offenders identified in 2013 had already died, left religious life,  or been removed from ministry.

The survey also showed the lowest numbers of new allegations of sexual abuse, numbers of victims, and numbers of offenders since CARA began to collect data since 2004. In 2004, the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” established continuing research into allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and responses from the dioceses.

The report also found an increase in support and funding for victims of clergy abuse, as well as continued gains in safe environment training and child protection.

During the time period studied, the dioceses increased their spending on child protection by more than $15 million from the previous period: from $26,583,087 to $41,721,675, a change of more than 50 percent. During this period more than 4 million children had been trained in safe environment training, nearly 36,000 priests, or 99.6 percent of priests, as well as 16,129 deacons – 09.7 percent – and 167,935 educators, or 99.5 percent.

In addition, the report noted the continued support of 1,843 survivors of abuse and outreach to an additional 340 new survivors and their families.

Deacon Bernard Nojadera, director of the Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection, attributed part of the increase in protection to “the rechecks of background for a majority of diocesan personnel.”

“This year, for instance, in many dioceses it was time for the every-five-year background check renewal. There was also an increase in the number of roles that required background checks,” he said.

Nojadera added that “it is encouraging to see dioceses putting the necessary resources into ensuring the safety of children in its parishes and schools.”

Archbishop Kurtz looked forward to continuing awareness and pursuits to improve safety.

“As we continue to create a climate of safety for all minors entrusted to the Church’s pastoral care, our three-fold pledge guides us: to help victims heal; to educate about and prevent abuse; and to hold accountable those who have harmed children. They remain essential priorities for our Church.”

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