The No. 1 reason — above all others — churches end up in court is as a result of child sexual abuse allegations, according to recently released data.
In 2016, the sexual abuse of a child slipped to the No. 2 reason churches end up in court, according to statistics first shared by Church Law and Tax. It went from being 11.7 percent of total cases to 8.3 percent. But the decline was short-lived; it swooped back up to the top spot one year later.
Sexual abuse of a minor is the top reason churches have gone to court in five out of the last six years, accounting for 1 in every 8 instances.https://t.co/6KlJOg3GCA
— Phillip Bethancourt (@pbethancourt) August 22, 2018
“I hoped it indicated a trend — a sign churches were responding more aggressively to prevention training — because of all the publicity child abuse has received in recent years,” Richard R. Hammar, an attorney and senior editor for Church Law and Tax, wrote.
But that’s not the case.
According to information gathered in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, the sexual abuse of a minor has made its way back to the No. 1 reason church leaders end up in court. The numbers jumped from 8.3 percent in 2016 to 12.1 percent in 2017.
“That’s sickening. We’re not doing the job I thought we were doing,” Hammar wrote. “I thought maybe we turned a corner and we’re going to see this risk drop. It’s not dropping.”
These new statistics were published right before a bombshell grand jury report out of Pennsylvania earlier this month revealed disturbing sexual abuses carried out by more than 300 Catholic priests over the span of 70 years. In total, the “predator priests” allegedly abused some 1,000 children, most of whom were boys.
In a statment on the horrific report, Pope Francis issued a universal call to “shame and repentance.”