Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Catholic Church Says Abuse Figures Are Down to Lowest Levels in Years

A report released by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops says that the sex abuse scandal that rocked the church this decade, is beginning to wind down. Not only are the numbers of abused victims lower than they were in past years, but the number of allegations and church payouts made to victims of abuse, have also declined.

Abuse-related costs incurred by dioceses around the country touched $104 million in 2009, compared to a total of $376 million in 2008. These costs include settlements paid out to victims, lawyers’ fees and other costs. Thus far, the sex abuse scandal has cost the US Catholic Church upwards of $2 billion. According to experts, although the number of settlements has dropped, the Church can't continue to pay out more settlements like this for much longer.

Victims groups have their doubts about the declining figures. They say that it may be optimistic to believe such figures from a highly secretive organization that succeeded in hiding abuse of priests for decades. Besides, even as the Catholic Church is finding that its troubles in America are petering off, new troubles are unfolding in Europe. The Catholic Church in Germany, Austria and Ireland are facing a crisis, rocked by abuse scandals that have ended up tainting the Vatican. Allegations of cover-ups have emerged, and it looks like it'll take more than just an apology from the pontiff in Vatican City to placate these victims. These cases of sexual abuse by clergymen in Europe could very likely have a ripple effect in the US, leading to more victims coming forward.

It's hard for a Las Vegas sexual abuse lawyer to imagine what the church expects us to do with these new findings. Are we supposed to pat the Church on its back for being less able to hide these abusive priests than it was able to do decades earlier? Isn't it a fact that the crushing litigation and settlement costs of these abuse claims, have contributed to the Church cracking down harder on such clergy?

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