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Church Responses to the Crisis: Recent Data

As we continue to learn about and respond to the clergy abuse crisis, it's important to make use of the best available information. If you aren't already, consider following Georgetown's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. The Center conducts ongoing research on various aspects of the Church, including clergy abuse, and regularly reports on its findings.

We've also received a PowerPoint deck from Sr. Katarina Schuth, who holds the Endowed Professorship for the Social Scientific Study of Religion at the University of St. Thomas. She has developed teaching modules for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on the 2011 John Jay study and continues to promote the most relevant research in this area.

You can download her February 2019 PowerPoint deck with recent updates here. In particular, Sr. Schuth shares the following:

Four Phases

She lays out four phases in the American Church's relationship to the questions. In Phase One (1950 - mid-1980's) there was almost no public recognition of abuse and fewer than 100 reported cases. Clergy abuse was considered an anomaly, and official responses were very limited. In Phase Two (1985-2002) there was an increasing awareness of the problem, culminating with the Boston revelations. Few responses came from bishops, although seminaries began to implement more changes. In Phase Three (2002 - June 2018) there were extensive actions by the bishops, leading to a substantial drop in new abuse cases (older cases continued to come in). Finally, in Phase Four (June 2018 - the present), there was a shift in focus from priests to bishops, who were accused of failing to report abuse and monitor themselves. We now have an ongoing response to the McCarrick scandal and the failure of responsibility by bishops, with an emphasis on the need for a development of a Code of Conduct for bishops.

The Numbers

Sr. Schuth also provided the most recent data on reported cases. There were 18,429 credible accusations in the United States through 2017. The majority of these incidents (at least 75%) occurred between 1960 and 1984. Between 2004 and 2017, the number of new credible cases occurring during and reported from that time is 291 (representing 1.6% of such cases). This represents a significant decrease in incidents, although Sr. Schuth takes care to point out that every case of sexual abuse is a tragedy and should be taken seriously.


YArespond is a group of Catholic young adults based in the Twin Cities seeking informed and holistic ways to respond to the abuse crises in our Church. We focus on a fourfold response consisting of prayer, education, dialogue, and action. Currently, we are working on developing resources for parishes and ministries to host events and dialogues. Learn more:

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