Catholic Abuse Audit Shows Current Accusations Are Down Again, But Media Highlights Decades-Old Claims

Rachel Zoll, Associated Press and Andrew Stern, Reuters

Rachel Zoll, Associated Press and Andrew Stern, Reuters

The newly released annual audit of abuse in the Catholic Church reports that only seven credible abuse allegations were made against Catholic priests by current minors in all of 2011.

Yet nationally syndicated articles from the Associated Press' Rachel Zoll and Reuters' Andrew Stern might have you believe that child abuse is currently a major problem infecting the Catholic Church.

Both journalists are trumpeting the fact that decades-old abuse claims increased in 2011, but not bothering to mention the status of current allegations.

In truth, the number of credible accusations alleging abuse by a Catholic priest against a current minor went down. For 2010, the number of such allegations was eight. For 2011, the number went down to seven. (If there are roughly 41,406 Catholic priests in the United States, seven credibly accused priests would represent .000169 (or 0.0169%) of all U.S. priests.)

The raw numbers

Here are some other notable figures from the newly released report, most of which you won't see in the national media:

45% of all priests who were accused for 2011 were already deceased (this is a record high figure);
75% of all priests who were accused for 2011 are either deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized, or missing;
over 90% of all abuse accusations last year allege incidents from at least two decades ago (the most common time period was from almost 40 years ago: 1975-1979).

Indeed, current accusations against Catholic priests are rare.

Sound bites from the professional Church critics

Reuters' Stern took an unfortunately lazy route for his article and went to the hysterical anti-Catholic groups SNAP and for comment on the new data. SNAP's media-ready "Outreach Director" Barbara Dorris predictably dismissed the audits as "nearly meaningless," while the punchy director of BishopAccountability, Terence W. McKiernan, called the report a "serious disservice to the public" without any accompanying explanation. Uh-huh.

The pair's huffy responses recall a memorable line last year from C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts: "If the Catholic Church were to put out a press release today saying that they were going out of business, SNAP would say, 'Why didn't they do this sooner?' No matter what the Church does, it will never satisfy SNAP." Indeed.

Trailblazing achievements

Although even a single instance of a priest abusing an innocent minor is an outrage, the Catholic Church has shown that it is achieving exceptional success in its efforts to protect children.

No other organization that deals with youth even bothers to report such statistics publicly, and the newly released figures suggest that the Catholic Church may be the safest environment for children today.

The new report praised the Church for doing "a tremendous job of creating safe environments." In fact, just last year alone, the Church spent an unprecedented $32 million in child protection efforts.

Indeed, the Church's strides in protecting children are unparalleled and unsurpassed. Just don't expect the media to report this.