U.S. Report Shows Work Still Needed to Set Up Safeguards

Charter Implementation Report Issued in Wake of Sex-Abuse Crisis

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WASHINGTON, D.C., JAN. 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- About 30% of U.S. dioceses and eparchies had to be told to move ahead with implementing all the guidelines adopted by American bishops in the wake of the sex-abuse scandals.



This was among the conclusions of the report on the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, issued by the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection this week.

The report is based on an independent audit conducted by Gavin Group Inc., of Boston, Massachusetts, headed by former FBI official William Gavin.

More than 50 auditors, most of them former FBI agents, conducted the independent audit of dioceses and eparchies (dioceses of the Eastern Catholic Churches) mostly between late June and November 2003.

They audited 191 dioceses and eparchies, including three re-audits due to special circumstances. Three dioceses and eparchies could not be audited due to scheduling or legal issues. An eparchy established in mid-2002 was not included in the present audit.

The compliance audit measured how the dioceses and eparchies fared in their efforts to integrate the charter's standards into their administration.

The audit considered only the actions taken by dioceses and eparchies since the adoption of the charter in June 2002. As a result of the audit process, dioceses and eparchies received "commendations," "instructions" and/or "recommendations."

Specifically, 129 of the audited dioceses and eparchies, or 68%, received from one to six commendations. Commendations were usually issued for innovative procedures and exceptional transparency and openness about the problem of sexual abuse. More than 180 commendations were issued.

An instruction was issued when circumstances indicated that a particular article of the charter had not been implemented. The auditors specified a dateline for compliance.

In all, 131 instructions were issued to 57 dioceses/eparchies, or 30% of those audited, of which 81, or 62%, were addressed by the end of the audit.

A recommendation was issued when there was incomplete implementation of a particular article of the charter or where significant improvement could be realized. The auditors also specified a dateline for compliance.

In all, 297 recommendations were issued to 125 dioceses/eparchies, or 65% of those audited, of which 258, or 87%, were addressed by the end of the audit.

Thirty-four of the audited dioceses/eparchies, or 18%, had unaddressed instructions and/or recommendations by the end of the audit.

Twenty of the audited dioceses/eparchies, or about 10%, are listed in Section I of the report as having unaddressed instructions at the conclusion of the audit.

Unaddressed recommendations are noted in the summary for each diocese/eparchy that is included in the report.

Dioceses and eparchies were not rated or compared to one another. The bishops included in the charter two means of accountability to ensure its implementation. The first is the Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP), which is required to produce an annual report on implementation of the charter, of which this report is the first.

The second is a review board to monitor and assist the OCYP and to approve its annual report. This board of 12 distinguished lay Catholics has come to be known as the Nation Review Board.

In his introduction to the report, Belleville Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the episcopate, says, "I am happy to say that it indicates that the Catholic dioceses and eparchies of the United States have put a tremendous effort into making the charter very much part of the life of the Church since the Dallas meeting."

He adds that the report "also shows that in Dallas we could not foresee everything that needs to be done. And so the report contains valuable recommendations for further strengthening the Church's response to the sexual abuse crisis in all its dimensions."

Bishop Gregory concludes his introduction by saying, "We cannot, without failing to be the community that the Lord intended us to be, neglect to keep children safe and secure. Nor can we fail to reach out to those who were harmed as children, to be of whatever help we can to them. As we said to the Catholic people in the Charter, 'Let there now be no doubt or confusion on anyone's part: For us, your bishops, our obligation to protect children and young people and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example given to us by Jesus Christ himself, in whose name we serve.'"

In a letter accompanying the report, Kathleen McChesney, executive director of the OCYP, expresses the hope that "true healing will occur and children and young people will be safe and secure within Catholic Church environments in the United States" through "increased pastoral outreach, the full implementation of safe environment programs, and careful adherence" to the charter and its companion canonical "Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons."

Section II of the report contains summaries of each of the 191 individual audit reports. The report can be found at www.usccb.org/ocyp/audit2003/report.htm.