Catholic Church Reveals Drop in Sex Abuse Cases; Validity of Report Questioned

An in-house audit overseen by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops revealing a rise in sex abuse cases with a decrease in allegations by minors is being viewed as nothing more than a charade by critics who say it is impossible for the Catholic Church to police itself.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the ninth annual audit by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which deals specifically with sex abuse cases, found that the church spent $144 million in the past year to deal with such issues. A total of 489 people reported credible allegations of abuse against 406 priests or deacons, up from 2010 when such accusers numbered 428, while there were 346 offending priests.

Of all the new allegations filed against the church, 11 percent were deemed false, while twelve accused clerics are still in active ministry while investigations into their cases are ongoing.

"We renew our promise to strive to the fullest to end the societal scourge of child sexual abuse," said in the report Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the highest ranked Catholic bishop in America.

The most recent audit found that 22 of the victims were minors at the time of abuse, which is down from 30 in 2010. Critics, however, have said that there are likely thousands more victims who have never brought the issue to court. Many also point fingers at the church's handling of such cases, claiming that greater efforts are made to protect the church's hierarchy rather than to help victims, according to Reuters.

Despite the ongoing scandals, Cardinal Dolan assures in the report that the Catholic Church is doing all that it can to help the abused.

"I again wish to acknowledge the millions of clergy, employees, and volunteers who work tirelessly to create safe environments and to heal those most harmed by abuse. Their admirable dedication and integrity serve as a forceful witness to the ongoing efforts to address and eradicate the sexual abuse of minors," Dolan writes.

Of the $144 million spent on settlement-related cases, $50 million went for settlements alone, $37 million was spent on attorneys' fees, $10 million was used to provide support for offenders, while $6 million was spent on therapy for abuse victims, who also benefited from the above mentioned settlement money.

An additional $33 million was allocated toward child protection efforts, and nearly every U.S. Catholic church has put its employees through training addressing the issue.

"The church must continue to be vigilant. The church must do all she can never to let abuse happen again. And we must all continue to work with full resolve toward the healing and reconciliation of the victims/survivors," Dolan declared.

Some observers, however, have questioned the validity of these audits, maintaining that the church cannot police itself.

Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) suggested that the reports were "meaningless" and many accused pastors are simply reassigned to other churches. president Terence McKiernan added that the Roman Catholic Church was doing a "serious disservice to the public by pretending that all is well."

The audit ends with a pledge by the Catholic bishops, who promise to continue fighting to protect children.

"We pledge most solemnly to one another and to you, God's people, that we will work to our utmost for the protection of children and youth. We pledge that we will work toward healing and reconciliation for those sexually abused by clerics."