De Pere Abbey reports abuse stats
In past 111 years, 16 Norbertine priests accused of misconduct
By Tony Staley
St. Norbert Abbey joined the Green Bay Diocese last week in releasing figures on the number of allegations of child sexual abuse they had received against their clergy a week before publication of the national John Jay Study commissioned by the U.S. Bishops.
The complete report on the diocese appeared in last week's Compass and can be found online here.
Speaking on behalf of St. Norbert Abbey, Abbot Gary Neville, O.Praem., said in the last 111 years, 16 Norbertine priests assigned to the abbey have been accused of sexual misconduct with children. A total of 267 priests were assigned to the abbey in those years.
Most of the accusations relate to events from more than 20 years ago, and some as long as 50 years ago, Abbot Neville said. "There have been 54 allegations against Norbertines, nearly half of which were levied against just two of our priests. One died more that 10 years ago, and the other left the priesthood."
He said most of the 54 allegations were found credible, but "four were found false and several are deemed questionable."
Out of ministry
Of the 16 accused priests, eight are deceased and three are no longer in the order. The remaining five are still members of the order, but no longer function in active ministry.
Settlement costs, attorneys' fees and counseling have totaled more than $1 million, most of which was covered by liability insurance, Abbot Neville said.
St. Norbert Abbey first established a policy on sexual misconduct with minors in 1986, Abbot Neville said. Its leaders are receiving additional training on the issue at a nationally recognized training institute established through the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM). The abbey also set up a committee to ensure conformity with the Bishops' Guidelines to Ensure the Protection of Minors.
"We have been involved in discussions to help religious communities develop careful guidelines for screening new candidates, including intense psychological testing," Abbot Neville said, and added that the order is in the process of establishing its own Review Board.
"Sexual abuse of minors is fundamentally contrary to the goals and mission of the Premonstratensian Order," he said. "The Order, since its establishment in the United States, has been committed to the education of young people, especially in the Green Bay Diocese. Thousands of young people have had the benefit of a good moral Catholic education in the Green Bay Diocese and beyond. However, regrettably, some priests associated with our Abbey have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of children."
The Abbey will continue to follow the policy it established in 1986, he said. And it "will strive to find ways to provide even better support and assistance for anyone who may have been victimized by one of our priests. We will not tolerate any type of abuse by our members. We cannot erase the pain of those who have been victimized, and, to them, I apologize on behalf of the order. Our order, as part of the Catholic Church in the U.S., continues to struggle with the ugly, sad, and painful reality of this history.... While we are saddened by the information set forth above, we are not discouraged."