DENVER (June 15, 2004) -- The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) approved an on-site audit of all dioceses and eparchies (diocese of the Eastern Catholic Churches) to be completed by December 31, 2004.
This audit will form the basis for the second annual report on the implementation of the "Charter for Child and Youth Protection" by dioceses and eparchies. The Charter requires that the Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP) does such an annual report.
The vote was 207 in favor and 14 opposed, with one abstention.
The bishops also discussed whether, in future years, the national audit process should be replaced by a process conducted on a regional basis, utilizing the 14 regions into which the USCCB divides the dioceses and eparchies of the United States.
The Charter states in Article 8 that "assisting provinces and regions in the development of appropriate mechanisms to audit adherence to the policies" of the Charter is one of the responsibilities of the OCYP.
At the conclusion of their discussion, the bishops directed the OCYP to oversee, in consultation with the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse (AHCSA), annual national audits until the process for audits is determined in the upcoming review of the Charter. The review process is to begin shortly.
In accord with Article 9 of the Charter, the bishops directed the National Review Board, in consultation with the AHCSA, to prepare and issue a request for proposals for the study of the "causes and context" of the recent crisis.
Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, chairman of the AHCSA, said that the bishops' actions were "a clear indication of our commitment to the Charter and to the protection of children and young people, which is the purpose for which we adopted it just over two years ago." Archbishop Flynn informed Justice Anne Burke, interim chair of the National Review Board, of the bishops' decision.
Justice Burke was pleased with the outcome.
"The National Review Board is pleased with the decision to move forward with the audits and to begin further research into the causes and context of these crimes," Justice Burke said. "Working with the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse, the National Review Board will continue to promote strong action to protect children and young people in the Church. The message is clear: Children will be safe from harm in the Catholic Church and the bishops and lay people will work on this together."