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Catholic Priests and Sexual Abuse

from an article by Julia Duin in The Washington Times - Nov. 12, 2003

The USCCB also will hear an update from the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel that was appointed last year to monitor the progress that dioceses are making toward protecting children in the wake of the clergy sex-abuse scandal.

"It will be hard for people to hear the aggregate numbers [about abuse] over the past 50 years," said the Most Rev. Wilton Gregory, president of the USCCB. "It will add some more pain to an already painful moment in the history of our church."

Gathering at the Hyatt Regency in the District for their annual policy meeting, 296 bishops spent more than two hours in executive session about the denomination's multimillion-dollar investigation into the crisis.

"All my brother bishops have a pastoral heart and they are very concerned about reaching out to the victims," said Greensburg, Pa., Bishop Anthony G. Bosco. "But when the issues get to the civil courts and a verdict is rendered, both sides are unhappy. Is there any experience that would lead us to believe that financial awards produce any healing or any understanding for the grief and sorrow caused not only for the victims but for all of us?"

Illinois Appellate Court Justice Anne Burke, a member of the 12-member National Review Board, was at a brief loss for words.

"That's one of the ultimate questions that need to be addressed," she said. "We don't know ..."

A series of speeches during an open session yesterday revealed little of what insiders say are explosive findings about the scope of the abuse. Each of the country's 195 dioceses has filed an audit on how well they are following a charter drawn up by bishops in 2002 on preventing further abuse.

William Burleigh, a Review Board member and the chairman of the E.W. Scripps Co., announced the audits will be released Jan. 6. A second report tracing the causes of the sexual-abuse crisis since 1950 will be released Feb. 27 at the National Press Club.

Because of the "extraordinary precautions" being taken to keep the results secret, bishops themselves will see the second report only 48 hours in advance of its general release.

No details about the findings were so much as hinted at yesterday, although USCCB officials said U.S. Catholics will find the scope of the problem "startling."

Thus, other groups have stepped in with their hypotheses, such as a 2002 study commissioned by the National Federation of Priests' Councils that said 55 percent of 1,200 Catholic priests polled claim a "gay subculture" exists in their diocese or religious orders.

Author and lecturer Richard Sipe, who advocates for many plaintiff groups in lawsuits against U.S. dioceses, estimates 30 percent of America's 45,713 priests have homosexual inclinations although half that number act out their desires with another person. However, more than 2,600 priests have been proved to be sex abusers of children and young adults, he said.

The Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., has 50 pending cases, said Mr. Sipe, a former priest now involved in mediation efforts between dioceses and the adult survivors of priestly abuse. The Diocese of Los Angeles, he added, has 500 cases, some of which are also Orange County cases.

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