The Catholic Church in the US forked out $120 million to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy and $30 million on paedophile prevention programmes over 12 months, according to an annual report out Friday.
The bulk of the $150 million between June of 2013 and 2014 was spent on compensation, therapy and legal fees for victims, the report said, and the rest went to preventing the abuse from occurring, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops said.
The US bishops conduct an annual study of sexual abuse allegations following a church scandal over paedophile priests came under the spotlight in 2002.
In the fallout, senior church officials acknowledged they had protected priests responsible for the sexual abuse of children.
The report said there were 657 allegations of underage sexual abuse by priests, of which 130 have been recognised and 243 are still under investigation and the rest unproven.
Most allegations relate to events that took place years earlier.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, said:
“Though our promise to protect and heal made in 2002 remains strong, we must not become complacent with what has been accomplished.
“It is my hope and prayer that as we continue to fulfil our promise, the Church will help model ways of addressing and bringing to light the darkness and evil of abuse wherever it exists.”
The report was released a day before Pope Francis urged the international community to act over a deadly surge in the numbers of migrants attempting to reach Italy via perilous sea crossings from north Africa.
The pontiff’s appeal came at the end of a week in which more than 450 people are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean and more than 11,000 other would-be immigrants to Europe have been rescued by Italy’s coastguard, merchant ships or vessels involved in a much-criticised European Union maritime border patrol operation.
The latest consignment of 450 refugees disembarked at Messina on Sicily on Saturday morning.