WASHINGTON — About 700 people launched new claims of sexual abuse against Catholic clergy in the United States last year, including 21 who are still minors, according to a new report released by US bishops.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said in the report released Tuesday that of the 683 adults who reported allegations for the first time, "most allegations reported today are of incidents from previous decades."
Sixty-eight percent of the complaints relate to events that took place between 1960 and 1984 -- the majority from 1975 to 1979, the report says.
Many of the clergy members accused have since died, or been relieved of their church duties. More than 280 of them had been accused in the past, it said.
Of the 21 accusations made by minors, seven were considered credible by the police and three were determined to be false, the report said. Three other cases were still under investigation.
The Church spent $144 million dealing with the scandal in the United States in 2011 -- including attorneys' fees, settlements, and support for offenders -- a decrease from $150 million in 2010.
The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked for several years now by a series of scandals involving allegations in pedophilia, including in Austria, Belgium, Ireland, Germany and the United States.
The report is based on an audit of the Catholic dioceses in the United States by the StoneBridge Business Partners.
The audit has been undertaken every year since the Church was rocked by pedophilia claims in 2002, when the then archbishop of Boston admitted to sheltering a priest accused in multiple abuse cases.
"The Church must continue to be vigilant," said Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, the president of the bishops' conference.
"The Church must do all she can never to let abuse happen again. And we must all continue to work with full resolve toward the healing and reconciliation of the victims/survivors."
The publication of the report comes several weeks after the start of the first trial of an American bishop who sheltered pedophile priests.
Monsignor William Lynn, who was responsible for supervising more than 800 priests in Philadelphia, stands accused of failing to report allegations of sexual abuse and failing to keep two priests away from minors.
Lynn faces up to 14 years in prison.