by Adam Horowitz

pope sexual abusePope Francis sent the media into a frenzy last week when during in an interview published in the Italian daily La Repubblica, the Pope discussed the “leprosy” of pedophilia. The article quotes the Pope as saying about 2 percent of Catholic priests are pedophiles. Notably, the Pope has not cited the source of his data or produced any records to support the assertion. Nevertheless, the media widely-quoted the Pope’s 2% figure and were stunned with his admission that 1 out of 50 priests is a pedophile. In reality, data-based studies on the subject of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church suggest the number of child-molesting clerics in the Catholic Church may be a much higher figure.

In a 2004, a report released by John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which worked with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said 4 percent of priests and deacons between 1950 and 2002 were accused of sexually abusing a minor. Notably, this was a self-report based on complaints received by the Dioceses throughout the United States. There are several reasons to believe even the 1 in 25 figure is too low. First, it was self-report by the Conference of Catholic Bishops in the United States who wanted to appear in a favorable light. The study did not include Dioceses in other parts of the world, including Europe and South America, where abused is believed to be even more prevalent. Similarly, the study did not include religious order cleric, such as those who have a specific mission of working with children, where it appears the incidents of abuse are even higher. Finally, when one considers that most child abuse is either never reported or takes many years to be reported, even the 4% figure is likely lower than the reality. Bishop-accountability.org, a Web site that publishes public information about accused priests and their cases, notes that some U.S. dioceses don’t submit regular reports to bishops on such cases. The group alleges that in dioceses where greater information was made available, either by choice or because of litigation, “the percentage of accused priests is approaching 10 percent.”

Whether the actual number is 2%, 4%, or a figure much higher, it is clear that there are far too many pedophiles within the ranks of the Catholic Church. Further, it is long overdue for the Catholic Church to be transparent on this issue. In litigation with the Catholic Church, it is common place for the Church to resist all efforts to obtain records documenting reports of sexual abuse. When such records are ultimately obtained, the next dispute is that the Catholic Church wants the records to be sealed. As an example, we are now handling a case where a client reported his child sexual abuse to the Diocese of Venice in 2008. The Diocese was quick to publicly disclose to the media that the priest vehemently denied our client’s allegation of abuse. When their own internal findings eventually reached the conclusion in 2013 that the victim was credible and that the priest had a history of deception and engaging in behavior that was a red-flag for child sexual abuse, the Diocese was utterly silent to the media. As Pope Francis has conceded, we need to shed more light on this “leprosy” and resisting the production of these records that document the extent of child abuse within the Catholic Church and demanding that the records be confidential is ultimately the wrong way for the Catholic Church to address this problem.

Our attorneys are experienced in representing survivors of child sexual abuse by Catholic priests and members of religious Orderhttp://www.abuseandassault.com/Abuse_Church_and_Clergy. We have handled civil lawsuits throughout the country and achieved groundbreaking results in the areas of the statute of limitations, First Amendment, and gaining access to church records. If you or someone you know is a survivor of child sexual abuse, please contact our law firm at (954) 524-2820 or send an email to sexual abuse attorney Adam Horowitz at [email protected].