4% of Roman Catholic priests accused of abuse for a half-century

WASHINGTON -- 4,392 priests have been accused of minor abuse in the past half-century, accoring to a major report recently released by Roman Catholic Church(Feb. 27).

According to the data acquired by researchers at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 4 percent of the 109,694 priests who served the church between 1950 and 2002 were accused of abuse. The number of victims reaches 10,667 and at least $657 million has been paid in legal settlements and treatment costs. The report reveals the startling bare facts of the clergy sex abuse scandal in detail.

"I assure you that known offenders are not in the ministry,"said Bishop Wilton Gregory of Belleville, Ill., president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. However, the public concern about minor abuse by priests does not seem to be extinquished easily.

Inadequate screening of potential priests is to blame for the clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, according to a blue ribbon panel commissioned by the nation's Catholic bishops.

"Dioceses and (religious) orders simply did not screen candidates for the priesthood properly,"said Bob Bennett, the Washington attorney and board member who spearheaded the report. It is inferred that many dysfunctional and psychosexually immature men easily entered seminaries and were ordained in the priesthood.

Now focus turns to three root causes identified by a lay review panel of experts: seminaries, gay priests and mandatory celibacy.

The nation's bishops will vote this year on a blueprint for seminary guidelines, and leaders say increased scrutiny for would-be priests will be part of that review.

Gay Catholic groups are in anxiety since the report classified 81 % of abuse cases as of a homosexual nature. However, perhaps the most difficult part for the church will be finding adequate avenues for discussing celibacy, about which bishops have been quite hesitant.