This is the eighteenth such report since 2002 when the U.S. bishops established and adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People a comprehensive set of procedures to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy and made a promise to protect and a pledge to heal. The report, which is typically released in June each year, was delayed due to the health and safety restrictions as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. A mid-cycle adjustment was made to extend the time frame of the audit process to accommodate diocesan offices which had closed, diocesan staff who had transitioned to remote work, and for the elements of on-site audits to go virtual. This adjustment did not alter data collected or information garnered from the audit process.
The 2020 report for audit year July 1, 2019 – June 30, 2020, states that 3,924 adults came forward with 4,228 allegations. The number of allegations is slightly less than that reported in 2019. As noted in the 2019 Annual Report, the number of allegations increased significantly in large part due to allegations received in connection with lawsuits, compensation programs, and bankruptcies.
During this audit year, 22 allegations were made by current minors, six of which were substantiated, two were unsubstantiated, three were unable to be proven, seven were still under investigation, and four were categorized as “other.”
The report notes the ongoing work of the Church in continuing the call to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. In 2020, the Church’s investment in protective services increased by 15 percent. This included over 2.5 million background checks conducted on clergy, employees, and volunteers. In addition, in 2020 over 2.5 million adults and 3.1 million children and youth were trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs. The Church also continues to provide outreach and support to 2,458 victim-survivors and their families in the form of counseling, spiritual assistance, and other social services.
Despite restrictions experienced due to the pandemic, evaluation of compliance with the Charter continued. Necessary adjustments to social distancing did not alter elements included in the audit process conducted by Stonebridge Business Partners. The Archdiocese of New Orleans requested a one-year postponement of the audit as the area continues to recover from natural disasters. The report noted the following:
61 dioceses/eparchies were visited either in-person or via remote technology and data collected from 135 others.
There were four instances of non-compliance: the Diocese of Fort Worth and the Diocese of Helena were found non-compliant with Article 2 of the Charter due to inactivity of their Review Boards; St Nicholas Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy and Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark Eparchy were both found non-compliant with Articles 12 (training of youth and adults) and Article 13 (background checks) of the Charter.
Two eparchies did not participate in the audit: the Eparchy of St. Mary Queen of Peace, and the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle.
The USCCB’s Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People and the National Review Board continue to emphasize that the audit and continued application of zero-tolerance policies are two important tools in the Church’s broader program of creating a culture of protection and healing that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.
The full Annual Report, and all previously published Annual Reports, may be found on the Secretariat’s audit page.