Roman Catholic leaders in 111 of the nation's 178 mainstream dioceses have allowed priests, religious brothers and lay employees accused of sex abuse to keep working, The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday.
Bishops ignored warnings about suspicious behavior and allowed priests to continue to serve after diagnoses of sexual disorders, legal settlements and criminal convictions, and in some cases after the clergyman admitted the wrongdoing, the newspaper reported.
The findings come from the paper's three-month review of national databases containing published reports, court records and church records obtained in litigation.
The newspaper also conducted dozens of interviews with attorneys, law enforcement authorities and others. The survey did not include Eastern-rite Catholic dioceses in the United States.
American church leaders did not dispute the results of the study, but questioned its relevance to the current crisis. The newspaper reviewed priestly misconduct dating back years — sometimes decades — when less was known about sex offenders, and physicians thought clergymen could return to work after undergoing treatment, the bishops said.
"I would be saddened and very much shocked if there are still bishops so caught up in the old way that they can't see a new way," said Bishop Joseph Galante, the coadjutor of the Dallas Diocese who is helping draft a new national abuse policy.
However, the paper reported that several bishops allowed accused priests to continue to serve into the 1990s. The paper cited an example in Alexandria, La., where Bishop Sam Jacobs returned the Rev. John Andries to a parish after Andries was accused of misconduct in 1998. By last year, Andries was in trouble again, criminally charged with molesting a sleeping boy.
The Rev. Thomas Doyle, one of the authors of a 1985 sex abuse report for U.S. bishops, said he thought the numbers in the News' study were low. But he said, the results point to a problem so pervasive that "the bishops don't know how to fix it."