Bishop McManus has published an updated report following the review of all cases of sexual abuse of minors since the Worcester Diocese was established in 1950. This report serves as an update to the 2004 report by then Bishop Daniel P. Reilly. It also recognizes the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, called the Dallas Charter.
This report by Bishop McManus, with assistance from the Diocesan Review Committee, notes that there was one allegation of abuse reported to have occurred in the Worcester Diocese since 1998.
The report, published in this week’s edition of The Catholic Free Press, details the scope of abuse, trends that were identified, and a summary of how the diocese has been responding to allegations of abuse, as well as the need for continued vigilance.
During the 72 years covered in the review, 173 people came to the diocese with credible or substantiated allegations, 93 of whom came forward since the 2004 report. The total number of allegations, including those which were credible, unsubstantiated, false and withdrawn from 1950 to 2022 was 209.
Most of the abuse took place with boys. Abuse with girls was less than 25 percent.
Most allegations of abuse were reported to have occurred in the 1960s through the 1980s. Many victims reported they were abused in the 1970s.
Although news media reports since 2001 about the removal of priests from ministry may have implied abuse was current, the abuse which led to those removals happened decades earlier.
There was a significant gap between the time the abuse occurred and when it was reported. Some of the priests implicated had already been removed from ministry. In 53 cases, the priest against whom the allegation was made was deceased when the victim came forward.
The report details how many credible allegations were made against individual clerics. Twelve of the accused clerics represent more than half of the credible allegations. No priest who was removed from ministry has returned to ministry in this diocese, or anywhere else.
After the Dallas Charter was adopted by the diocese, the Office for Healing and Prevention was established. It includes a victim assistance coordinator who is a licensed, independent, clinical social worker. The diocese also set up a confidential telephone number (508-929-4363) for victims to reach the assistance coordinator at any time.
In addition, the diocese created the Diocesan Review Committee to address abuse of minors and provide guidance to the assistance coordinator and the bishop.
Each year the victim assistance coordinator reports new and ongoing cases to independent national auditors.
The report notes that since 2002, when an allegation of abuse is made to the diocese, the Worcester District Attorney is notified. Furthermore, the diocese publishes information about every priest who is placed on administrative leave and/or is laicized. That information can be found in the news release section of the diocesan website. There has been a dramatic reduction in occurrences of abuse in the past three decades.
In the Worcester Diocese, tens of thousands of church and school staff and volunteers, along with all clergy, undergo training with the Dallas Child Advocacy Center on identifying the signs of abuse.
Children throughout the diocese undergo periodic training about “stranger-danger” and protecting their own bodies, currently with the use of the Circle of Grace curriculum in Catholic schools and religious education programs.
Also, thousands of parish and diocesan staff and volunteers are subject to criminal background checks through the Massachusetts Criminal Offender Record Information system.
The report stressed the need for continued work and vigilance to protect children from harm.
Click here for report.