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 CNS Special report:
 Coverage of John Jay report, National Review Board study.

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Transmitted 02/26/2004 11:43 AM ET

Clergy sex abuse survey is about much more than numbers

By Jerry Filteau
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The national study of more than 50 years of sexual abuse of minors by U.S. Catholic clergy covers much more than the number and ages of victims, the number of allegedly abusive priests or deacons and the years the abuse occurred.

The researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice -- which conducted the study with the cooperation of nearly all U.S. dioceses and most male religious orders -- also sought to uncover how clerics first met their victims, what kind of abuse was inflicted, how often and how long it occurred.

They asked the age and gender of each victim, the number of victims accusing each alleged abuser, who first made the allegation, what church official was first contacted, and how the diocese or religious order responded.

They asked if the abuser had problems with alcohol or drugs or both and if he plied the victim with alcohol, drugs, pornography or other inducements.

Numerous other questions sought to draw out patterns of abuse and many other aspects to paint a thorough picture of the nature and scope of U.S. Catholic clerical sexual abuse of minors from 1950 through 2002.

Data from the survey will provide a rich field for researchers to delve into for years to come.

When the questionnaires were sent out to dioceses and religious orders last spring, they and the accompanying instructions on completing the survey were all labeled confidential. But within a few weeks paper and electronic copies were circulating among journalists and others and were posted on the Internet.

Each diocese and religious order was asked to fill out a separate questionnaire on each accused cleric and on each victim.

Questions sought to determine if the cleric gained access to the victim by cultivating friendship with the family, as a confessor or counselor, as a parish priest working with altar boys, through institutional contacts such as school, orphanage, choir group, youth groups, sports, youth camps, camping trips, day trips, weekend outings, or a variety of other ways.

Researchers asked if the victim had any siblings who were also abused and other questions about the victim's family and home circumstances that might offer clues as to common patterns of abuse.

They asked a number of questions on the nature of the abuse, ranging from sexual talk with no physical touching at one extreme to penile or other sexual penetration at the other.

They asked whether a cleric was referred for treatment after an allegation, what type of treatment was provided, where it was provided, how often he was treated and whether treatments were completed. They also asked whether he was suspended from ministry or laicized, what assignment or assignments he received after treatment if any, whether his ministry was restricted, and whether he re-offended after treatment.

For each allegation they asked whether there was an internal investigation, how it concluded and who was notified of the results. They asked whether civil authorities were notified and, if so, whether that resulted in a police investigation, criminal charges, a conviction and, when there was a conviction, what kind of sentence.

It asked whether the victim received treatment or a financial settlement to compensate for the allegation of abuse and if so, what were the amounts and how much was covered by insurance and how much by church funds. Dioceses and orders were also asked to give an accounting of the attorney's fees paid out over the years to deal with allegations of clerical sexual abuse.

Each diocese also had to answer a brief questionnaire on the number of priests serving there since 1950 and other facts needed for a basic profile of the diocese. Religious orders faced a similar questionnaire, adapted to provide a profile of the order.


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