Is child sexual abuse still occurring?

Of the 300 priests described as abusers in the recently released Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, two have been accused of abuse within the past 10 years. All of the other cases are decades old. Approximately half of the 300 priests are deceased, and the remaining priests are not in ministry. Based on these facts, there is good reason to believe that the comprehensive reforms and uniform child protection procedures developed by the United States bishops in the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, along with much greater societal awareness and commitment to preventing child abuse, are having a significant impact and have led to drastic reductions in new allegations of abuse in the Church.

In addition to the 2002 reforms, another contributing factor to the reduction in new allegations of abuse is that all seminarians are put through a rigorous screening process. This process includes background checks, references, multiple interviews and thorough psychological evaluations to evaluate thoroughly the candidate’s capacity for a lifetime commitment to a chaste, celibate life.

In their independent study, the John Jay Report researchers reviewed the number of allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors from 1950 to 2002, nationally. Separately, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has collected the numbers of new allegations of sexual abuse by clergy reported since 2004. The distribution of cases reported to CARA is nearly identical to the distribution of cases, over time, in the John Jay results.


The graph above shows the results of these independent studies. Consistent with all of the data from analysis of this issue and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, it is clear the abuse occurred primarily in the past, from 1950-1990, and has greatly decreased since the 2002 Charter was implemented.