|Dioceses Compliant With Charter; Outreach Extensive|
WASHINGTON—Virtually all U.S. dioceses and eparchies are compliant with the U.S. bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," according to audits of dioceses and eparchies in 2007.
The report also noted that outreach to victims/survivors and their families characterizes diocesan responses. (www.usccb.org/ocyp/annualreport.pdf)
The audit results appear in the 2007 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The report is produced under the direction of the National Review Board, chaired by Judge Michael Merz. It includes the audit results of 190 of the 195 dioceses and eparchies in the United States as well as data collected for calendar year 2007 by the Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) in its Annual Survey of Allegations and Costs. The report was released March 7.
The report noted diocesan outreach efforts.
"In general," it said, "healing initiatives focus on psychological/therapeutic counseling and spiritual care." The report also said that "recognizing that healing can take many forms and the needs of victims can take many forms, dioceses/eparchies are offering outreach in the form of rent, transportation, no interest loans and employment counseling."
Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said child protection is a priority issue for the bishops.
"Roman Catholic Bishops and Eastern Rite Eparchs have continued to work diligently to implement the Charter," he said. He described it as "a covenant they made in 2002 with their people, their priests, and with the public at large."
More than 96 percent of people required to participate in safe environment training did so, despite the challenges posed by "the sheer number of individuals in each category to receive safe environment training" and turnover in parish membership, the report said. Nevertheless, it noted that 5,683,940 or 96.6 percent of minors and those working with them received safe environment training by 2007, and 1,307,973 or 97.8 percent underwent background checks.
The CARA survey, to which 194 of the 195 dioceses responded, found five credible accusations of abuse that occurred in 2007 to persons who were minors in that year. Overall, CARA reported that in 2007 more old cases came to light as 689 victims made 691 allegations against 491 offenders. Most incidents took place decades ago, most frequently in the 1970-79 period. Most victims were male and more than half between the ages of 10 and 14 when the abuse began.
Nearly 80 percent of the offenders identified in 2007 are deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized or missing. About 60 percent of those identified as alleged offenders had been identified in previous allegations.
Money expended in relation to the abuse crisis greatly increased.
"The total allegation-related expenditures by dioceses, eparchies, and clerical and mixed religious institutes increased by 54 percent between 2006 and 2007," CARA reported. There was "a near-doubling (90 percent increase) in the amount paid for settlements in 2007," CARA reported. Dioceses paid $420,385,135 in settlements and religious orders paid another $105,841,148. Not all money that courts awarded in 2007 was slated for distribution that year and some money was paid out by insurance companies.
Nine dioceses and one eparchy voluntarily expanded the scope of their audits to include audits in parishes to examine compliance and understanding of the Charter at the local level. They included the (Arch) Dioceses of Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Boston; Eparchy of St. Nicholas of Chicago for Ukrainians; Covington, Kentucky; Los Angeles; Portland in Maine; Rockville Centre, New York; Springfield in Illinois and St. Petersburg, Florida.
One diocese and four eparchies did not participate in the audits: Lincoln, Nebraska and four Eastern Rite dioceses – Our Lady of Deliverance Syriac Catholic Eparchy in New Jersey; the Eparchy of Newton for Melkites – Roslindale, Massachusetts; the Eparchy of St. Peter the Apostle Chaldeans – El Cajon, California; and the Eparchy of St. Josephat for Ukrainians in Parma, Ohio.
All dioceses and eparchies, except Lincoln, participated in the CARA Survey, a 99 percent response rate. Among clerical and mixed religious institutes, 159 out of a possible 218 participated for a 73 percent response rate. The overall response rate for dioceses and religious institutes was 85 percent; the highest response rate ever reached for this survey.
Audits were conducted by The Gavin Group. Inc., a Boston-based firm founded by former FBI agent William Gavin and overseen by the USCCB Secretariat for the Protection of Children and Young People, specifically created in 2002 by the bishops to address the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
Eleven (arch) dioceses and one eparchy were non-compliant with one or more of the Charter articles at the time of the audit. Ten fell short of Article 12, which stipulates conditions for safe environment programs. They were the (Arch)Dioceses of Anchorage, Alaska; Baker, Oregon; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Boston; Eparchy of St. Nicholas, Chicago; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Rockville Centre, New York; Tulsa, Oklahoma; and the Archdiocese of Military Services.
A number of these dioceses rely on public school safe environment programs for students in religious education classes and were deemed non-compliant because they could not identify the programs used by the public school system and whether they were approved by the bishop/eparch.
The (Arch) Dioceses of San Francisco, Galveston-Houston, and Las Cruces were non-compliant with Article 13, relating to background checks. Galveston-Houston became compliant before the report went to press. The Archdioceses of Anchorage and Denver were non-compliant in reporting allegations to public authorities at the time of the audit but have since become compliant.
The National Review Board made three recommendations:
- Simplify the audit process
- Take all action possible to conduct background evaluations of international priests, and review with these priests the legal standards which define sexual abuse of minors in the local civic jurisdiction as well as the specific diocesan standards of conduct. The focus on international priests stemmed from that fact that the audits, which covered up to a 22-month time span, found that six of the 12 credible allegations involving victims who were still minors were made against international priests. (The discrepancy between audit numbers and CARA numbers comes from the fact that the audit covered a longer period of time, up to 22 months, as all dioceses move to the same 12-month audit period.)
- Urge contributions to the Causes and Context Study, estimated to cost $2.6 million. Almost $1 million is still needed to fund the study being undertaken by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
"Examination of parish implementation by the auditors can provide bishops with important management information as they work to implement the Charter," Judge Merz said in a letter to Cardinal George.
He noted the challenges in providing safe environment training but highlighted the fact that millions have received it.
"We believe the mobility of the population to be trained makes 100 percent compliance difficult, but note proudly that millions of American Catholics have received this training since 2002," he said.