The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Catholic Bishops Report 1,092 New Abuse Allegations in 2004

Religion News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. February 18, 2005: More than 1,000 people in America alleged abuse at the hands of 756 Catholic clergy in 2004, the nation's Catholic bishops said today, a sign that the three-year abuse scandal continues to rock the church. In addition, officials said various dioceses paid US$157.8 million for abuse settlements, therapy and legal fees last year. Since 1950, the Catholic Church in the United States has paid at least $840 million to settle abuse cases. "Continued vigilance and dedication to this effort is not a choice, it is a necessity," said Kathleen McChesney, the outgoing director of child protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The numbers show in sharp detail that the abuse crisis which erupted in the Archdiocese of Boston three years ago continues to haunt the church. In fact, the scandal took a significant toll on the church in 2004 as three dioceses declared bankruptcy. Combined with numbers released last year, at least 11,750 victims have made credible allegations against 5,148 clerics between 1950 and 2004.

The cases reported in 2004 followed patterns first spotted last year: -- Most of the abuse occurred during a spike between 1965 and 1974. -- Victims were overwhelmingly boys between 10 and 14 years old. -- Half of the clerics involved had been previously accused of abuse. -- Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the accused priests were already dead, defrocked or pulled from active ministry.

There was evidence, however, that the scandal is not simply "history," as some bishops contended: 22 of the 1,092 allegations made by 1,083 people involve abuse committed in 2004, and there were nine additional cases of priests tied to child pornography. All new cases were turned over to law enforcement, McChesney said. Most troubling for victims groups was an estimate that at least 42 priests or deacons who were accused in 2004 "remain in active ministry pending a preliminary investigation of an allegation." Some 305 priests were temporarily suspended and 148 were permanently yanked from their pulpits.


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