In assessing numbers, one of the most valuable sources is the Chicago study carried out by a commission appointed by Cardinal Bernadin. The personnel files of all men who had been priests in the archdiocese between 1951 and 1991, or 2,252 individuals, were examined. Between 1963 and 1991, 57 of these priests and 2 visiting clerics had been the subject of allegations of sexual abuse. The commission reviewed all charges, not by the standard of criminal cases, which inists upon proof beyond a resonable doubt, but on the less stringent civil criterion of the preponderance of evidence. Furtehr, evidence was used taht would not have been acceptable in a court of law, including hearsay testimony. Where there was doubt about a case, the commission decided to err on the side of the accuser rather than the priest involved. By these quite generous standards, the charges in 18 cases were judged not to involve sexual misconduct: 4 cases were based on "grounbdless" testimony; in 14 others "there was inappripriate and immature behavior which did not rise to the level of child sexual abuse or molestation," behavior such as "tickling and questionable language." Removing these 18 cases left valid charges against 39 priests in the archdiocese, and the 2 externs.
This study offers a likely range for the incidence of sexual misconduct sufficiently serious or obvious led to complaints: 2.6 percent of archdiocesan clergy were the subject of complaints, and charges were thought to be justified for 1.7 percent of priests. Because the cardinal's commission was under intense public pressure to examine the records thoroughly and frankly, we can probably be confident about the validity of its figures. Extrapolation to the national situation is much riskier, but there is no oimmediate apparent reason that clergy in this diocese should have been significantly more or less prone to misconduct, or that parishioners should hafve reported abuse at a rate much higher or lower than that national avergage.
The CHicago findings offer the first and, to date , the only systenatic review of so large a cohort of clergy over so long a period to become publicly available.