The Boston Globe is reporting that the Catholic Church in the United States experienced a sharp increase in abuse claims last year. It is the largest rise since the country’s Catholic bishops began keeping tallies of claims in 2004.
The annual report from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, which covers July 2015 to June 2016, said 911 victims came forward with allegations the church deemed credible, the vast majority of which were from adults who said they were abused when they were children. The bishops’ report noted that the previous year there were only 384 claims of abuse.
The report attributed the rise in claims to Minnesota, the state temporarily lifted its statute of limitations in 2013 to allow alleged victims older than 24 to sue for past abuse, and the deadline to file such claims was in late May 2016.
However, other factors such as the documentary film Spotlight which served to bring the issue back into the forefront of public attention.
Victims who came forward during the most recent reporting year included 26 minors, the report said.
The report’s definition of “minors” included people under age 18 or anyone who “habitually lacks the use of reason.”
As of June 30, 2016, two of the 26 cases had been substantiated, while 11 had been deemed unsubstantiated by church officials. The rest remained under investigation, the report said.
The offenders in the substantiated cases were removed from ministry, as were 26 other priests or deacons accused of past abuse, officials said.
The report did not break down the location of the allegations but said its data was based on information from all 196 diocese and eparchies of the bishops conference and from 180 of the 232 religious institutes of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men.
The latest figures mean that between 1950 and June 2016, more than 18,500 people nationwide made clergy abuse allegations deemed credible by US Catholic officials, and more than 6,700 clerics have been accused of abuse, church records show.
Activists have questioned whether the church’s count of clergy sex abuse victims is lower than the actual total. The Media Report, a conservative online site, hit back against the Globe’s article accusing the newspaper of attempting to keep an old story alive by rehashing old news and false claims. Of course, they also include the obligatory criticism of lawyers. The truth of the matter is this: lawyers who are involved in this fight for justice are doing it to help the survivors of sexual abuse and those who come forward show a great deal of courage and their claims have been shown to be true.