In the mission statement for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops the first thing listed is for the conference to, “act collaboratively and consistently on vital issues confronting the Church and society”
Contrast that part of their mission statement with the recent audit released by the USCCB that shows sharp increases in the number of new claims and in the value of settlements to victims. The audit showed that 838 people came forward from July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015 and claimed priests, deacons, or members of religions orders had sexually abused them while they were children. This represents a staggering 35 percent increase from the number of abuse reports from only a year earlier.
The report also disclosed that Catholic parishes spent $153.6 million on settlements, legal fees and other expenses related to claims of sex assault over the audit period, up 29 percent from $119.1 million a year earlier.
The USCCB went on to claim that these increases reflected large numbers of claims in six dioceses that had either filed for bankruptcy or were located in states that opened windows allowing victims to sue over old cases of sexual assault.
It is disturbing to think that possibly only a few dioceses and states are responsible for a national 35 percent increase in abuse cases. I shudder to think what the increase would be if nationally, statutes of limitations were opened to allow the thousands of unknown victims to come forward and seek justice.
Obviously the Catholic Church and the USCCB are thinking about it as well. A recent report in the New York Daily News revealed that the New York Catholic Conference paid more than $2.1 million dollars to lobbyists from 2007 through the end of 2015 hoping to prevent a reform bill that would help survivors of sex abuse within the church file claim against their attackers. The report went on to reveal that lobbyists were retained, in part, to work on issues associated with “statute of limitations” and “timelines for commencing certain civil actions related to sex offenses.”
The Catholic Church and the USCCB have long argued that opening windows to revive old cases and suspending statutes of limitations will ultimately bankrupt many dioceses, and indeed already has sent several dioceses into bankruptcy proceedings. The church also continues to claim that it wants to end the scourge of sexual abuse in its ranks, and publically asserts concern for abuse victims. However, privately it continues to fight against measures that will identify pedophile priests and allow their victims to seek justice.
Inside the hypocrisy of a church that still openly discriminates against women and homosexuals – yet continues to harbor pedophiles in their midst – it is worth noting that also included in the 2015 USCCB report was that 16 percent of the abuse victims identified were under the age of 10.
Perhaps the Catholic Church should begin to consider that as a “vital issue confronting the Church and society.”