You can’t put a price on how much damage the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals have done to the victims. But you sure as hell can count how much the Church has paid out as a result of those lawsuits. And that’s what Jack and Diane Ruhl of the National Catholic Reporter did.
According to their research, since 1950, that amount comes out to $3,994,797,060.10. Nearly $4 billion. And that’s an underestimate since we still don’t know how much was spent for therapy for the victims, help for the offenders, and the creation of “safe environment” programs.
That figure is based on a three-month investigation of data, including a review of more than 7,800 articles gleaned from LexisNexis Academic and NCR databases, as well as information from BishopAccountability.org and from reports from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Up until now, “nearly $3 billion” has been the most widely cited figure by media, academics and activists for the cost to the U.S. church for clergy sex abuse and its cover-up. NCR research shows that figure is too low, probably by as much as a billion dollars — and perhaps much more.
As a way of illustrating the magnitude of the costs to the U.S. church, if that amount were divided evenly among the nation’s 197 dioceses, each would receive nearly $20 million.
On top of that, you can consider all the money the church would have gotten had these scandals not happened at all, through lost memberships and donations. That amount has been estimated by other researchers at more than $2.3 billion a year.
And yet there are still people who happily hand over their money to the Church, enroll their children in Catholic schools, and continue going back to celebrate life events like weddings and baptisms.
When you consider what that amount of money could have accomplished and what it ended up being used for, it’s appalling anyone would look at the Church and its leadership, including Pope Francis, as figures of moral authority.