Reported cases of priest abuse from last year have been the lowest since 2004, according to an annual compliance audit of Roman Catholic Church dioceses in the United States.
In 2012, there were six credible cases of abuse found of 34 claims, with 15 of those allegations still under investigation, reported the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA).
The audit itself was performed by StoneBridge Business Partners, a multinational organization founded in 1994, on behalf of CARA.
The audit further found that nearly all of the dioceses who took part in the audit were found in compliance.
Sister Mary Ann Walsh of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops told The Christian Post that the findings "offer hope and inspire confidence in the church's programs of Safe Environment."
"The findings show that the intense effort in dealing with this sin and crime of child sexual abuse has paid off. While sexual abuse of minors is a human problem that we must always be on the lookout for, the Safe Environment programs that are in place in parishes nationwide are shown to be effective," said Walsh.
"The outreach to those who have been abused in the past is also effective as numbers [of people] reporting having been abused even decades before is on the decline. The decline shows the effectiveness of vigilance in the matter of keeping children safe from sexual predators," she said.
The data for the report came from the onsite audit of 71 dioceses and the reviewed documentation submitted by 118 dioceses and eparchies. A small number of dioceses and eparchies either refused to be audited or did not respond by the report's deadline.
Founded in 1964 and affiliated with Georgetown University, CARA's stated mission is to "increase the Church's self understanding", "serve the applied research needs of Church decision-makers", and "advance scholarly research on religion, particularly Catholicism," according to its website.
The recently published report is not without its critics. Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) provided The Christian Post with a statement by SNAP Director David Clohessy.
Referring to the report's findings as "misleading numbers", Clohessy stated that he believed the findings failed to consider age as a factor in the likelihood of abuse reporting.
"The sad, simple truth is that it has always taken child sex abuse victims decades to speak up, and that is not likely to change," said Clohessy.
"Catholic officials know this. Yet they disingenuously put out this self survey…knowing it will be good public relations for them, but will recklessly lead to increased complacency by the very people who should be vigilant."