WASHINGTON (September 19, 2002) -– With over 95 percent of dioceses reporting, the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse (AHCSA) of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) today released results of a survey taken to assess the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People passed by the USCCB last June.
St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, chairman of the AHCSA, said that he found the response "very encouraging."
"We not only got a quick response from dioceses," Archbishop Flynn said, "but the information they shared with us shows how committed they are to putting the Charter into effect."
The survey was taken during August at the suggestion of the National Review Board set up by the USCCB to help monitor diocesan compliance with the Charter. A summary of the results follows:
Of the 195 archdioceses and dioceses surveyed, 186 or 95 percent have responded.
1) Of them 179 (nearly 92 percent of all dioceses) reported having a written policy on sexual abuse available to the public. Of the 6 (or 3 percent of all dioceses) replying in the negative, 5 said that they are preparing to do so.
2) 156 (or 80 percent of all dioceses) reported having procedures for making a complaint readily available, in printed form, and the subject of public announcements. Of the 29 (or 15 percent of all dioceses) replying in the negative, 13 indicated that they plan to comply by October; the rest by the end of the year.
3) 133 (or 68 percent of all dioceses) reported that they have an assistance coordinator who aids in the immediate pastoral care of victims of sexual abuse by church personnel. Of the 52 (or 27 percent of all dioceses) replying in the negative, 24 said that they plan to comply by the end of the year.
4) 149 (or 76 percent of all dioceses) reported having a review board, the majority of whose members are lay persons not in the employ of the diocese /eparchy (a diocese of the Eastern Catholic Church). Of the 34 (or 17 percent of all dioceses) replying in the negative, 25 said that they plan to comply by the end of the year.
5a) 123 (or 63 percent of all dioceses) responded that their states include clergy on the list of mandatory reporters. Fifty-four (or 28 percent of all dioceses) answered in the negative. Nine (or 5 percent of all dioceses) gave incomplete responses.
5b) 105 (or 54 percent of all dioceses) responded that they report past or old cases to civil authorities. Forty-eight (or 25 percent of all dioceses) answered in the negative. Thirty-three (or 17 percent of all dioceses) gave incomplete responses.
The report summary stated that this question received more incomplete responses than any other which reflects "the variety of legal requirements to which dioceses are called to respond and the fact that many of these requirements are under review by state legislatures."
6) 118 (or 61 percent of all dioceses) reported that they have a statement or policy describing appropriate standards of ministerial behavior for clergy and other church personnel. Of the 66 (or 34 percent of all dioceses) answering in the negative, most indicated that they are in the process of reviewing or updating their personnel handbooks to comply with the Charter.
7) 127 (or 65 percent of all dioceses) reported initiating a "safe environment" program for the detection and prevention of child sexual abuse. Of the 56 (or 29 percent of all dioceses) responding in the negative, most reported looking into such a program.
8) 160 (or 82 percent of all dioceses) reported having procedures to check the background of clergy, church ministers, and volunteers who have regular contact with minors. Of the 23 (or 12 percent of all dioceses) responding in the negative, most reported that they are developing procedures to revising older ones.
9) 144 (or 74 percent of all dioceses) reported having been in dialogue with the Major Superiors of Religious regarding the status of members in religious life. Of the 39 (or 20 percent of all dioceses) answering in the negative, most reported scheduling such a meeting by the end of the year. Seven indicated having no religious working in their diocese/eparchy.
Archbishop Flynn said that dioceses were able to respond to the Charter so quickly because much of it was based on steps already taken in many dioceses.
"The Charter is part of an on-going process " the same process that led to the enunciation of the original five principles for handling cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy in 1992 and to the work of the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse which was set up the next year," Archbishop Flynn said.
The five principles referred to were first stated by the Bishops" Conference president at the bishops" June 1992 meeting. They were: 1) Respond promptly to all allegations of abuse where there is reasonable belief that abuse has occurred; 2) if such an allegation is supported by sufficient evidence, relieve the alleged offender promptly of his ministerial duties and refer him for appropriate medical evaluation and intervention; 3) comply with the obligations of civil law as regards reporting of the incident and cooperating with the investigation; 4) reach out to the victims and their families and communicate sincere commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being; and 5) within the confines of respect for privacy of the individuals involved, deal as openly as possible with the members of the community.
In 1993, the Bishops" Conference established an Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse. It issued three Restoring Trust reports, of which the first contained a thorough analysis of existing diocesan policies with recommendations for strengthening them. It sponsored meetings with victims and victims" organizations, and its representatives attended their national meetings.
In conjunction with the 1998 Spring general meeting of the USCCB, the AHCSA sponsored an extensive symposium for the bishops on various aspects of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. The AHCSA originated formal consultations with other bishops" conferences of English-speaking countries and participated in other international church consultations on the problem.