Rachel Zoll

Church abuse reports say there have been nearly 11,000 abuse complaints since 1950. A panel of prominent Roman Catholics rebuked US bishops Friday for failing to stop widespread clerical sex abuse over the last half-century, calling the leaders’ performance “shameful to the church.”

The exchange came as the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel formed by the bishops, issued two highly anticipated studies documenting the molestation problem from 1950 to 2002. One report found there have been 10,667 abuse claims over those 52 years. More than 80 per cent of the alleged victims were male and over half said they were between ages 11 and 14 when they were assaulted. About 4 per cent of all American clerics who served during the years were accused of abuse. Victims’ advocates immediately decried the figures as low.

The second review-board report examines the causes of the molestation crisis and puts much of the blame on American bishops for not cracking down on errant priests. It found that, of the 10,667 reports of assaults on minors, more than 10 per cent were could not be substantiated and roughly 20 per cent were not investigated because the priest accused was dead or inactive when the allegation was received. Researchers said that approximately 6,700 claims were substantiated.

The abuse tally also shows that the number of reported cases grew through the 1950s and ‘60s and peaked in the 1970s, then began to drop off — slipping notably in the last decade. Victims’ advocates say that’s because there is a reporting lag; victims often do not come forward for years or even decades. — Beliefnet.com