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Oakland Diocese Says 72 Abused In 50 Years

Report cites charges against 24 priests, none still working

Feb 10, 2004 | San Francisco Chronicle

There were 24 priests in the Diocese of Oakland charged with child abuse and 72 confirmed victims over the past five decades, authorities of the Catholic Church in the East Bay reported on Monday.

Victims have been paid about $5.5 million in settlements, and an additional $600,000 to cover the cost of counseling, according to Oakland Bishop Allen Vigneron.

Vigneron's report, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is an internal attempt by the church to attach hard figures to the child-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic clergy in recent years.

In an open letter to parishioners that accompanied the statistics, Vigneron called clerical sexual abuse a "heavy burden most intensely, a burden on the men and women whose childhood innocence was taken by the reprehensible acts of sexual abuse by their parish priests.''

"I apologize again with all my heart to each man and woman who was abused as a child by a priest in this diocese. Each of them has experienced immeasurable harm and I beg pardon from them,'' the bishop said.

According to the bishop, the 24 priests with valid claims of abuse against them represent about 6 percent of the 422 priests and deacons in the diocese during that period.

None of the 24 priests remains in active ministry, the bishop said. Fourteen are dead, nine were relieved of their ministries and one was defrocked.

Other abuse victims may not have come forward, the bishop acknowledged.

"The diocese remains open to hearing from these victims and their families,'' he said. "We will continue to take each allegation seriously.''

On Feb. 1, the San Francisco archdiocese released its report on its sexual abuse statistics. That report said there had been 148 child molestation cases involving 50 priests over five decades, and that the archdiocese had paid $9.25 million in victim settlements.

Church critics say the reports may amount to little more than simple surveys based on church-supplied statistics that do not necessarily reflect the true number of molestations.

"These are self-reported figures from the very same men who got us into this mess to begin with,'' said David Clohessy, the executive director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), a nationwide group of abuse victims.

Clohessy said the Oakland study "gets us a shade closer to the truth but also may increase a false and dangerous complacency.''

He said it is particularly significant that the East Bay survey shows 24 priests but only 72 victims, because SNAP surveys have found that each abuser can have numerous, perhaps dozens, of victims.

The San Jose diocese is expected to release its report next week, and a nationwide report is expected by the end of the month.


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