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 Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Statistics | Crew Janci LLP

By April 5, 2023No Comments

Catholic Church Sexual Abuse Statistics

For centuries, the Catholic Church has faced internal issues of sexual abuse by priests and other religious leaders. In an attempt to protect the Church’s reputation, efforts have been made to systematically conceal the true extent of this abuse, which has affected Catholic dioceses and permeated various religious orders.

The position of sacred trust held by the offenders in Catholic organizations only exacerbates the situation, as victims struggle to understand their experiences and recognize the abuse as exploitation.

In this article, we will examine Catholic Church sexual abuse statistics, providing a clearer understanding of this issue’s magnitude and far-reaching consequences.

Child Sex Abuse in the Catholic Church

The May 2022 Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, published annually by the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection for the National Review Board and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), provides insight into the reported victims, offenses, and offenders of child sex abuse within the Church. (Note that these statistics, like most statistics about child sexual abuse, likely present a lower incidence of abuse than has actually occurred, given the stigma and other challenges that often prevent abuse victims from reporting.)

Key findings include:

  • Gender of abuse victims: The majority of reported abuse victims were male (85%), while 15% were female.
  • Age of victim when abuse began: Based on available data, for victims whose age is known, the majority of abuse incidents started when they were between 10 and 14 years old (46%). In 40% of cases, the abuse began when victims were between 15 and 17 years old, while 14% of victims were under 10 years of age.
  • Ecclesial status of alleged perpetrators: The majority of alleged perpetrators were Brothers of Province serving in the US (43%), followed by priests serving in the US (25%), and 4% were Former Brothers of Province.

The Alarming Prevalence of Repeat Offenders

  • Percentage of alleged perpetrators with prior allegations: Nearly one-third (32%) of the alleged perpetrators identified had one or more previous allegations of child sexual abuse.

This striking statistic highlights the prevalence of repeat offenders in child sexual abuse cases within the Catholic Church. This is consistent with other more general statistics that show that child sexual abusers often have many victims. The fact that nearly one-third of alleged perpetrators have faced similar accusations in the past also emphasizes the importance of understanding and addressing the factors that contribute to this pattern.

Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Statistics

Although the Catholic Church has made more efforts in recent years to prevent child sexual abuse, recent data reveals a concerning decline in the amount of funding allocated by the Church for child protection initiatives. Between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, dioceses, eparchies, and religious institutes collectively spent $38,584,773 on child protection measures. This figure represents a 25% decrease from the previous reporting year. During the same period, the institutions involved paid a total of $223,572,519 for costs associated with allegations of abuse. These costs encompass a wide range of expenses, including settlements, legal fees, therapy, and support services for survivors.

Costs to the Catholic Church for Child Sex Abuse Claims

Across the board, with the exception of “other payments to victims”, which increased 8%, the Catholic Church reports that costs related to allegations by dioceses and eparchies decreased year-over-year. The grand total allocated in FY 2021 was $194,120,218, down 38% from the $311,980,666 allocated in FY 2020. Settlements have reportedly made up over half the cost of every year since FY 2017.

Below we’ve included an overview of reported costs to the Catholic Church in FY 2021, which includes:

  • Settlements: 61% of payments made by dioceses and eparchies were for settlements to victims, totaling $118,516,493 and representing a 46% drop from FY 2020.
  • Attorneys’ fees: A total of $45,597,100 was spent on attorneys’ fees, representing 23% of costs. This is a 20% drop from FY 2020.
  • Other payments to victims: This category represents payments to victims not already included in the settlement. It makes up 7% of total costs at $13,103,280, an 8% increase from FY 2020.
  • Support for offenders: Payments, including therapy, living expenses, legal expenses, etc., for offenders make up $9,972,414, or 5% of total costs. The expense has decreased by 17% from FY 2020.
  • Other costs: Other allegation-related costs include payments for items such as investigations of allegations, USCCB compliance audit costs, review board costs, staff and administrative costs, monitoring services for offenders, consulting fees, court costs, and no-fault settlements. These costs make up 4% of total costs at $6,930,931. These accumulated costs have decreased by 38% compared to FY 2020.

According to the Church’s report, Diocesan insurance payments covered approximately $31,253,355, approximately 16%, of the total allegation-related costs. Other monetary sources for payment reportedly include the sale of property (12%), restructuring of debt (10%), staff reductions (5%), elimination of programs or services (3%), and bankruptcy filing (4%).

Crew Janci’s Impact on Church Judgements

Crew Janci LLP, a law firm specializing in child and adult sexual abuse cases, has successfully litigated claims against Catholic dioceses and religious orders nationwide. Our work has resulted in increased compensation for victims (and therefore contributed to the financial costs incurred by the Church), holding them accountable for the sexual misconduct and abuse committed by priests, nuns, and other religious leaders. In child sexual abuse cases that have helped more than 500 victims, the attorneys at Crew Janci have recovered over $200 million.  Many of those were victims of abuse in the Catholic Church.

In a 2018 case, the Archdiocese of Portland agreed to pay nearly $4 million to settle claims by eight men who said they were sexually abused as boys in the 1970s and the 1980s by a priest on the Oregon coast. The men, now in their 40s and 50s, were between the ages of 5 and 12 when the abuse occurred. Oregon law allowed the men to file civil action because they only recognized the impact caused by the alleged child abuse within the five years prior to bringing suit. Individual settlements for the victims ranged between $100,000 and $675,000.

Portland’s archdiocese was driven to bankruptcy in 2004 after settling more than 100 claims of sexual abuse allegations at the hands of clergy and facing dozens more. By the time the bankruptcy proceeding was over in 2007, the archdiocese church officials had settled over 300 claims and paid out nearly $90 million in claims and attorney fees. Settlements for the 2018 case came from the archdiocese’s future claims trust, which was set up during the 2004 bankruptcy proceeding.

Perceptions of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

A Pew Research study provides valuable data on how different populations view sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States. While findings are similar across adults in all demographics, surveyed individuals identifying as Catholic show some variance in opinions as compared to the adult population as a whole.

Key findings include:

  • 92% of adults have heard about recent reports of sexual abuse or misconduct by Catholic priests and bishops. (58% have heard a lot, while 34% have heard a little).
  • 8-in-10 non-Catholic adults say recent reports reflect ongoing problems, while 12% say they reflect things that happened in the past.
  • 69% of Catholics say clergy sex abuse is an ongoing problem, but 24% say recent reports reflect things that happened in the past and mostly don’t happen anymore.
  • 48% of adults say sexual abuse and misconduct are more common among Catholic priests and bishops than leaders in other religious traditions. However, 61% of US Catholics say behavior is equally common among leaders in other religions.
  • 47% of adults say sexual abuse and misconduct are equally common in other religious practices.
  • 57% of adults say sexual abuse of children is just as common among adults who work with children in nonreligious settings (like teachers, coaches, or camp counselors).
  • 27% of Catholics say they have scaled back Mass attendance, and 26% say they’ve reduced the amount they donate to their parish in response to recent reports of sexual abuse and misconduct.
  • 29% of adults who attend religious services say their clergy has spoken out about sexual abuse. 68% say their clergy hasn’t said anything about the issue of clergy sexual abuse, while 12% say their clergy has warned against false allegations of abuse.

Justice for Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse

The statistics surrounding sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church paint a harrowing picture of the extent and impact of this pervasive problem. Despite more recent efforts to prevent and address child sexual abuse, the issue persists, with many victims suffering in silence. Due to the trauma, stigma, and fear surrounding childhood sexual abuse, many victims don’t come forward until years later, suggesting that the current percentages fail to represent the entire population of those affected.

At Crew Janci LLP, we are committed to helping survivors of sexual abuse find healing, help, and justice. We understand the courage it takes for victims to come forward, and we strive to provide the support and legal expertise they need during their journey toward healing. If you or someone you love has been a victim of clerical abuse, please contact us today. We are here to help.

This article presents statistics from trusted sources and includes additional insights which represent the opinions of Crew Janci. Please note that the content provided in this article should not be construed as legal advice.


Peter Janci

Peter has represented more than one hundred victims of sexual abuse over nearly a decade. In Spring of 2010, Peter Janci served as part of the Plaintiff’s trial team in Kerry Lewis v. Boy Scouts of America — a child sexual abuse trial in Portland, Oregon that resulted in a $19.9 million verdict for the Plaintiff. Peter has tried a number of jury and bench trials, in addition to representing clients at arbitration and meditation. Peter has also helped obtain dozens of other significant settlements for other survivors of sexual abuse.