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Survey Reports Over 1,000 New Accusations against Catholic Priests in Past Year

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on Friday released the second annual survey of how the church is preventing and dealing with sexually abusive priests, reporting that they have received 1,092 new accusations of sexual abuse against clergy. The New York Times reports that the allegations were made against a total of 756 priests, and that most of them regarded incidents that happened 30 years ago.

The aim of the survey, conducted by Gavin Group Inc, is to determine if the nearly 200 Catholic dioceses have implemented programs to assist victims of abuse and educate church employees and parishioners to identify and avoid sexual abuse, the New York Times reports. However, flaws were found in the survey’s process. For instance, only 135 victims of abuse were interviewed for the Gavin Group’s survey, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), and the report clearly states that “The audit process does not ensure that all offenders or potential offenders have been appropriately removed from ministry.” Additionally, all of the information collected was voluntarily given by dioceses. Policies and procedures were reviewed, but their effectiveness was not.

Of the allegations released last Friday, 22 were made by children in 2004, all of which were turned over to police as required by the Catholic Church’s policy that incidents of sexual abuse must be reported to civil authorities. Unfortunately, this policy is set to expire on March 1, the Los Angeles Times reports, and in order to extend these policies until new rules are agreed upon, the Vatican will need to do so formally.

The Washington Post reports that victims advocates are working to repeal the statutes of limitations that enable many of the priests accused of sexual abuse to go unpunished, protecting them from lawsuits and prosecution. Many of those abused by priests come forward years later as adults, past the time allowed by law to bring a case to trial. In Massachusetts, where the clerical abuse scandal first broke in Boston, state Representative Ronald Mariano (D) has introduced two bills that would eliminate statutes of limitations for civil and criminal cases, the Washington Post reports. Four other states have extended statutes of limitations on sex crimes in the past three years: California, Connecticut, Illinois, and Missouri.

Sources:

New York Times 2/19/05; Los Angeles Times 2/19/05; Washington Post 2/17/05; SNAP 2/21/05

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