Catholic Review Board Promises Audit by January

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times [Chicago IL]
July 30, 2003

Members of the panel charged with overseeing cleanup of clergy sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States said Tuesday they will release results of an audit of every diocese in January--whether the news is good or bad.

The National Review Board of 12 prominent lay Catholics, led by Illinois Appellate Judge Anne Burke, met in Chicago a year after it was formed by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to keep bishops accountable for implementing new Vatican laws about sexual abuse.

As of Monday, 45 of 195 dioceses in the United States had been reviewed by auditors--many of whom are former FBI agents, said board member William Burleigh, former CEO of the E.W. Scripps Company.

Two-thirds of the dioceses also have submitted information for a study expected to detail how many priests have abused children, how many children have been victimized and how much the sex abuse crisis has cost the American church financially, Burleigh said.

The results of the audit and study are expected to be released "sometime in January," said board member Robert Bennett, a Washington, D.C., attorney.

Dr. Paul McHugh, a board member and head of the Johns Hopkins University department of psychiatry, said he hopes to take the results of the first study and commission a third, in-depth report on the psychological makeup of abusive priests, an undertaking that will likely take years and millions of dollars.

"This is yeoman's work and it's just beginning," said board member Ray Siegfried, an Oklahoma businessman. "I can tell you that there are some very positive and good examples of dioceses complying, and there are some of the other kind, too."

The board also met privately with leaders from two national advocacy groups for victims of clergy sexual abuse who questioned whether the board's survey and audit could be trusted because the information gathered is self reported by individual bishops and dioceses.

Self-reported information is "not perfect," Bennett said. "But it's going to be a lot harder to cover up things in the future than it has been in the past."

Bishops and dioceses that do not comply with the new Vatican laws, which, among other things, require all allegations of sexual abuse to be reported to civil authorities, will be made public, Bennett said.

"Make no mistake about it," he said, "unless the bishops of the country are fully committed to this, take our reports, take our recommendations and run with them, and put the protection of children as their very highest priority, then much of our work will be wasted."


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