A survey conducted by the New York Times found that 4,268 people have claimed publicly or in lawsuits that priests abused them in the past six decades.
The survey, relying on court records, news reports, church documents and interviews, found that 1,205 priests, or 1.8% of all priests ordained from 1950 to 2001, had been accused of abuse. Most of the priests accused of abuse were ordained between the mid-1950s and the 1970s, while the alleged abuse occurred primarily in the 1970s and the 1980s, the newspaper reported. Some allegations date to the 1930s.
Since last January, when the Boston Archdiocese disclosed documents showing that officials had protected priests who molested, hundreds of people have come forward with accusations of abuse.
The Times reported that more than 400 priests have resigned or retired because of the scandal since last January, including Boston’s Cardinal Bernard Law. Cardinal Law was accused of transferring from parish to parish priests who were accused, often repeatedly, of sexually abusing minors.
Experts say it is impossible to tell how many abuse victims exist, saying many didn’t report the abuse before the 1950s because of the social stigma and that many still have not come forward.
“My assessment is it’s only the tip of the iceberg,” said William R Stayton, a Widener University professor who teaches human sexuality. He was shown the results of the Times study.
“You really don’t have a true picture.” said Mr Stayton. “I have worked with many clergy sexual abuse cases over the years, and very, very few of them were reported.”
The Times survey also found:
Half of the priests accused of abuse were accused of molesting more than one child, and 16% were accused of having five or more victims.
80% of the priests were accused of molesting boys. A majority was accused of molesting teenagers, while 43% were accused of molesting children, 12 years and younger.
The newspaper reported that 63 priests were accused of abuse in the 1950s; seven in the decades before; 256 priests were accused of abusing minors in the 1960s; 537 in the 1970s; 510 in the 1980s; and 211 in the 1990s, the newspaper said.