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  Diocese Meets Child-Protection Rules
The Audit Comes Just Weeks after Bishop Michael Cote Expelled a Priest Following Allegations of Sexual Misconduct 14 Years Ago

By Kenton Robinson
The Day [New London CT]
February 19, 2005

Norwich - In the wake of the recent expulsion of a priest, the Norwich Diocese Friday announced it had received a clean bill of health for its efforts to keep children safe from sexual abuse.

The Office of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops said an audit of the diocese showed it to be in full compliance with the bishops' "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" adopted in 2002.

The Gavin Group Inc., an independent investigative firm based in Boston that audited the diocese in October, found the diocese responds swiftly to allegations of sexual abuse and reaches out to victims, said the Rev. Ted F. Tumicki, the bishop's delegate for safe environments.

This was the second year since the audits began, and the second year the diocese received a positive review.

"I am very grateful to the members of our diocesan family for their cooperation in implementing our educational opportunities, pastoral code of conduct, comprehensive screening measures, and sexual misconduct policy," said Norwich Bishop Michael R. Cote. "We are committed to providing a safe environment within our parishes, schools and institutions."

It was with that commitment in mind, Cote said, that he asked the head of the Society of St. Edmund to remove the Rev. Paul Pinard, 73, from the diocese last month.

The reason was not, Cote stressed, any new allegations of sexual abuse against Pinard but "substantial allegations of sexual misconduct with minors" made during Pinard's service in Canada 14 years ago.

Pinard had served at the Edmundites' retreat on Enders Island in Mystic without apparent incident since 1995.

The Rev. Richard Myhalyk, the superior general of the Edmundites, said Friday that he had no idea why Cote asked him to remove Pinard from the diocese.

"As far as I know, Father Pinard has done nothing, and he is very remorseful, and he is greatly filled with shame," Myhalyk said.

"I have no idea why Cote did that," he said. "To put the best spin on it, he is trying to demonstrate that he is absolutely, positively going to follow the letter of the law. But if every bishop in the United States takes that position, what's going to happen to priests accused of abuse?"

The Edmundites believe "the thing to do is to retain them and keep them under supervision," Myhalyk said. "Father Pinard had a safety plan in place, and Father Pinard has been very cooperative. In fact, I was about to ask Bishop Cote to expand his ministry."

Pinard came to Enders Island 10 years ago with the permission of then-Bishop Daniel A. Hart, who was informed of Pinard's history, Myhalyk said. Hart allowed Pinard to come to the diocese on the condition that he would be closely supervised.

But some former parishioners and sources familiar with the situation suggested Friday that Pinard was not closely supervised.

The Rev. Thomas F.X. Hoar, who is director of the retreat center, frequently travels, they said, leaving Pinard to celebrate Masses and hear confessions on his own.

Middle school and high school students work in the kitchen preparing meals at the retreat, and the retreat conducts home schooling programs for teenagers in grades 6 through 9.

But Myhalyk said that whenever Father Hoar was away, Pinard was supervised by Deacon Ron Henderson, "so there was always someone monitoring Father Pinard."

Prior to coming to Enders Island, most of Pinard's career was spent teaching high school.

He taught at St. Michael's College in Winooski, Vermont, from 1964 to 1967 before becoming a pastor in a parish in Rosemere, Quebec.

Pinard taught at Rosemere High School from 1973 to 1989. He was removed from his assignment as a parish priest in Canada in 1991, immediately after an allegation of sexual abuse was made against him, Myhalyk said. He stressed that the allegation did not come from a high school student.

Pinard was returned to the Edmundites' headquarters in Vermont, where he went through counseling.

"He is not a pedophile, according to the testing," Myhalyk said. "So although there was abuse of a minor in the past, after it's been probed and tested, he is not a pedophile."

But if Pinard was not being supervised according to the original agreement, it may have given Cote cause to call for his expulsion.

Jacqueline Keller, a spokeswoman for the diocese, would not comment on that question, saying only that "it is the bishop's obligation to make sure that young people are protected."

According to the audit, the Norwich Diocese reports all allegations to authorities, conducts investigations with the help of a lay review board, screens employees, clergy and volunteers, and has implemented a comprehensive Safe Environment Program, Tumicki said.

Two auditors spent four days interviewing staff members, priests, the bishop, law enforcement officials and victims, he said.

"It was very thorough, and that really impressed me," Tumicki said. "They were former FBI agents, and they really knew their stuff, which we were very happy about."

The audit of the Norwich Diocese was part of a national audit that found nearly all the nation's 195 dioceses were fully complying with the child protection programs prelates mandated nearly three years ago. Dioceses and religious orders said they spent more than $20 million on child protection last year.

But claims of sexual abuse by priests are still coming in.

Roman Catholic leaders said Friday they received 1,092 new abuse claims against American priests and deacons last year, even after they had already paid more than $800 million in settlements.

Bishops said, however, that the flood of fresh allegations was not a sign abuse is rampant in parishes today. Most of the alleged incidents occurred decades ago and nearly three-quarters of the 756 accused clerics had died, been defrocked or been removed from public ministry before the claims were made in 2004, church leaders said.

Still, the financial fallout continues. Kathleen McChesney, head of the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the total payout to victims has now climbed to at least $840 million since 1950.

"The crisis of sexual abuse of minors within the Catholic Church is not over," McChesney said. "What is over is the denial that this problem exists."

Wire reports were included in this story.

 
 

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