Published February 27, 2004
Key conclusions from the "causes and context" report on the clerical sex abuse crisis in the U.S. Roman Catholic Church (search). The report was issued Friday by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel:
—"The overwhelming majority" of U.S. priests have lived "honorably and chastely" but molesting allegations were made against 4 percent of clerics serving from 1950 to 2002.
—The "serious failings" of bishops "have been shameful to the church," harming it as "a moral force in the secular world" and adding to the harm suffered by victims.
—Church leaders "did not act effectively" to prevent abuse "or respond appropriately when it occurred."
—Some bishops "placed the interests of the accused priests above those of the victims," did not speak with victims directly, relied on misleading advice from therapists and lawyers or emphasized "institutional concerns" that fostered "secrecy and concealment."
—Church law "made it too difficult to remove a predator priest from ministry."
—Leniency toward predators may have been "a misguided act of forgiveness."
—"Celibacy did not cause the crisis," but the church did not effectively screen out "many sexually dysfunctional and immature" priests or train seminarians for the celibate life.
—Though "many outstanding priests of a homosexual orientation" maintain celibacy, it's significant that more than 80 percent of abuse incidents involved males under 18.
—"Effective measures have been taken" to protect minors by the U.S. bishops in recent years.
—The bishops' toughened abuse policy must be vigilantly maintained and "more must be done" in education, response to cases, accountability of bishops and "meaningful participation" by lay Catholics.