WASHINGTON (April 11, 2007) — Virtually all U.S. dioceses are compliant with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, according to a report on the 2006 audits conducted by the Gavin Group, a Boston-based company that monitors diocesan adherence to the U.S. bishops' plan to address clergy sexual abuse of children.
The Gavin Group also reported that based on information provided auditors, "98 percent of the volunteers for whom training is required have been trained."
The audits examine compliance to the 17-point Charter drafted by the U.S. bishops in 2002 to confront sexual abuse of children by clergy.
The Gavin Group undertook 11 full audits, most requested by the diocese or eparchy that was audited, and 18 focused audits based on unresolved required actions noted in a prior audit.
Bishop William Skylstad, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), noted the report's significance.
"Vigilance to ensure the safety of children is now a way of life," he said.
Bishops need to "work together as one to promote the protection of our children and young people," he added.
"This translates into a clear and compelling two-fold mandate: to keep children safe in our church, and to heal the past wounds of those we failed to protect," he said.
The audit report noted that "as they had in 2005, the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska and the Eparchy of Newton for Melkite Catholics refused to participate in the 2006 compliance audit process."
Seventeen of the focused audits centered on Article 12, concerning Safe Environment programs that call for education and training of children, youth, parents, ministers, educators and others who come into contact with children. There were 15 dioceses/eparchies that were found compliant. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati and the Diocese of Burlington, Vermont "were found to be non-compliant due to the need to complete the training of volunteers."
The Diocese of Baker, Oregon, and the Eparchy of Our Lady of Deliverance of Newark for Syriacs refused to participate in the focused audit process, which was required by their failure to comply with Article 12 in the 2005 audit.
"Maintaining compliance in the coming years remains the challenge of the bishops/eparchs in the United States," the report said also. "Vigilance is needed to overcome the natural regressive tendency to become complacent."
The National Review Board, a group of laity who advise the bishops on dealing with clergy sexual abuse of minors, offered two recommendations based on the 2006 audits.
The board asked that "a standardized approach to parish participation in the audit process be developed and implemented." The board also asked "that bishops/eparchs create structures, or use existing ones, to verify the accuracy of the audit-related data at the parish, school, and institutional level."
"Some dioceses on their own have developed self-audits of parishes for Charter compliance," William Gavin, president of the Gavin Group, noted in a letter to Bishop Sklystad.
Patricia Ewers, PhD, chair of the National Review Board, voiced discouragement that four dioceses/eparchs would not comply with the audits.
"It is most unfortunate that the bishops and eparchs of these diocese/eparchies are unwilling to participate in the one measure of public scrutiny that assures the Catholic lay faithful that the church is taking every means possible to reach out to those who have been harmed by individuals in the service of the church and to promote the safety and well being of the children entrusted to its care."
Teresa Kettelkamp, head of the U.S. bishops' Office for Child and Youth Protection, noted the effectiveness of the audits.
"The audits have solidly proven that the structures of the Charter are working," she said. "But this does not mean the job is done. Victims continue to come forward, and a welcoming hand needs to reach out to them. Children still need our protection, and a safe environment must be maintained for them."
The complete audit report and related materials can be found at www.usccb.org/ocyp.