OF WHEELING-CHARLESTON WV
Accused Priests: 11 (of which 2 were "exonerated," and allegations against 2 were "not credible")
Total Priests: 219
Alleged Victims: At least 11 (extrapolated from number of accused priests)
Cost: $3,000,000 in counseling, settlements and awards
Diocese Releases Sexual Abuse Statistics
February 27 , 2004
In March 2003, The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned a study to discover the nature and scope of the clergy sexual abuse problem. That study was conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. It compiles data sought from 195 dioceses in the U.S. on the numbers of offenders and victims as well as how much money dioceses have spent on counseling, settlements or awards during the period from January 1, 1950- December 31, 2002.The report is intended to give a comprehensive picture of the nature and scope of the problem.
The Jay Study found that nationwide 4,392 priests have had allegations of sexual abuse levied by 10,667 persons since 1950. The full report can be found online at www.usccb.org.
The Jay Study, it should be noted, reports only aggregate statistics for the United States . The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is committed to openness, and wants to release to you today information regarding the problem of clergy sexual abuse in West Virginia .
A review of diocesan records found that 11 of the 219 priests serving in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston since 1950 were accused of sexual abuse of minors by 15 persons. Of the 11 priests, two were exonerated and another two allegations were not credible. Accordingly, the diocese has had seven credible accusations over the past 54 years. Based on the best information available, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has paid out a total of approximately $3 million in counseling, settlements and awards during the period of the report, and none of that was from money donated by parishioners.
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is profoundly sorry that some priests were responsible for this abuse while serving in West Virginia . The deep pain caused by these abusers can never be erased, and the diocese regrets that any victim, any family, was ever subject to any person who violated such a sacred trust. One victim is one victim too many, and the Diocese is committed to doing all it can to learn from the past and combat this problem in the future.
The care for young people is among the Church's most important obligations and an issue of great trust between Catholics and their Church. For young people to suffer at the hands of anyone working on behalf of the Church, especially the clergy, is a terrible betrayal of Gospel precepts. The Church categorically condemns all forms of abuse, and is committed to eradicating abuse through the most stringent sexual abuse policies and a commitment to openness unparalleled in other organizations.
The openness of the Jay Study released in Washington and the openness of the information the diocese is sharing deals with the past. The Church is committed to taking what was discovered in the past, and applying those lessons to the future. While the Church cannot change history, it can do all within its power to prevent future instances of abuse.
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the Bishops in 2002, deals with the future. The Charter is a profound document designed to combat future instances of abuse. It is, perhaps, the most comprehensive strategy ever generated by an organization aimed at dealing with the terrible scourge of sex abuse. The Charter takes the toughest definitions of abuse, adopts the strictest standards of conduct, applies those high standards relentlessly as never done before in any organization, and has the strictest consequences for those who fail to meet its exacting standards.
In short, the current norms in the Catholic Church aimed at combating the problem of sex abuse successfully carry out the statement of Pope John Paul II that, "There is no place in the priesthood or religious life for those who would harm the young."
The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has had in place since 1985 a stringent written sexual abuse policy, which was promulgated by then-Bishop Francis B. Schulte. The current policy is the fourth revision of the 1985 policy, which had been updated in 1990, 1995 and 2003 by Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt. Further, Bishop Schmitt offered a pastoral reflection on the issue to the people of the diocese in 1993. The diocese received a commendation by a group of independent auditors for its long history of stringent policies regarding sexual abuse. Those same auditors found the Diocese to be in complete compliance with the exacting standards of the Charter.
To combat abuse and promote healing, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston appointed a victim assistance coordinator, Dr. Patricia Bailey. It has established a review board made up of persons from the fields of psychology, medicine, law enforcement and human resources, among others.
The diocese instituted a nationally recognized safe-environments program, the "Protecting God's Children" program, completion of which is mandatory for all working on behalf of the Church. The Diocese has also initiated programs of outreach to victims, requires comprehensive screenings and background checks of not only those who want to become priests, but also anyone who works on behalf of the Church.
The Diocese further requests the reporting of all instances of suspected sexual abuse to both civil and Church authorities, and has distributed information and forms for doing so to every parish in the state, as well as made the information online on the diocesan web site, dwc.org.
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