Thomas P. Doyle
Thomas P. Doyle, J.C.D., C.A.D.C.
March 2007 - Revised July 2008 

1.         The John Jay College Study reported that between 1950 and 2004 there were 10,667 documented accusations and reports made of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics in the United States.  There have been no similar studied done in other countries presently reporting widespread clergy abuse such as Ireland, the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  It is widely believed that since  it is accepted that only about 30-35% of those sexually abused ever report their abuse that the actual number of clergy abusers is much higher.

2.         The Catholic Church authorities have regularly claimed that there are a significant number of false claims and false accusations.  This assertion is often used by the bishops and by state Catholic conferences in their strategies to defeat any attempts at legislative reform. 

3.         No Catholic diocese nor any other source asserting that there have been significant numbers of false claims has provided any documentary evidence.  In fact no one who has said that there are a great number of false claims has even produced any anecdotal or unofficial evidence.

4.         Some have claimed that the legislative “window” which was opened in California resulted in a flood of false claims.  In fact there were about 1200 new civil suits alleging sexual abuse as a result of the window.  Of that number about 800-850 were claims against a Roman Catholic diocese of Religious Order.  The attorneys who represented the claimants reported that there were only 3 claims that were false.  These were instances when the person alleging abuse was actually making a false report.

5.         There have been thousands of civil suits in the United States alone since 1985.  The majority of these have been filed since 2002.  Most of these end in settlement arrived at either through mediation or through decisions reached by the parties and their lawyers.  A significant number of cases have been dismissed by the courts.  None have been dismissed as a false claim.  All have been dismissed because of the Statute of Limitations.  This means that the plaintiff did not file the claim within the prescribed time limits as set by the State statute.

6.         Most (probably all) attorneys who have represented persons claiming sexual abuse by a clergy or religious put the prospective client through a thorough screening interview.  There are instances when attorneys have decided not to represent clients.  In the majority of cases that I am aware of the reason was that the attorney determined that the case was barred by the Statute or would be difficult or impossible to prove for other reasons.

7.         There is a fundamental difference between an intentional false claim and a mistaken claim.  A false claim is essentially a lie.  A mistaken claim is a belief by a person that he or she had been sexually abused when in fact that action upon which this claim was based turned out not to be a sexual gesture in any form.  There have been cases when people believed they had been sexually abused when in fact the belief was based only on fantasy or totally subjective  perception. For example one person I knew of believed a priest had sexually abused her when it turned out she had imagined the abuse solely because he had looked at her.  There have been other cases when an accidental touch was exaggerated by a person when in fact it was no more than a touch with no sexual overtones or intent.  In nearly all of the instances of this nature the claimant has been found to have some degree of mental or emotional instability.

8.         There have been many instances when the accused cleric has denied the allegation or downgraded the report to a misunderstanding.  In nearly all such cases when a proper investigation is carried out it has been determined that the report of sexual abuse was accurate.

9.         Conclusion

  1. There have been thousands of reports of sexual abuse by clergy in the United States.  These reports span a period of more than fifty years.  Although bishops often claim that there have been very few actual cases in their dioceses, when diocesan files are disclosed through the discovery process the documentary evidence has revealed that in fact, there have been reports of sexual abuse for decades.

  2. There is documentary evidence of the 10,667 reports mentioned in the John Jay Study.  Since the study was published hundreds of additional cases have been revealed from the same time period.

  3. There is documentary evidence available of about 20 cases of false and mistaken claims from the same time period.  There is evidence of three false claims out of 800-850 claims from California.

The information contained in this memo is the result of my experience as an expert witness/consultant since 1986.  I personally spoke with every attorney who represented plaintiffs in California and have questioned dozens of other attorneys about false or mistaken claims.  I have personally been involved with 8 cases wherein the allegation was deemed to have been untrue: three were based on dishonest reports by the claimants and the remainder were based on mistaken information.