Fairbanks Diocese's Efforts Praised by National Auditors
Abuse: Bishop and His Committee Refined One Section on Misconduct.

The Associated Press, carried in Anchorage Daily News [Fairbanks AK]
August 27, 2003

FAIRBANKS -- The Fairbanks Catholic Diocese has drawn high marks along with recommendations for improvements from a team of auditors conducting a national review to see if dioceses are complying with the Church's new policies on sexual abuse.

After a visit to Fairbanks last week, auditors also made recommendations to the diocese to further improve its policy.

Auditors praised Bishop Donald Kettler and the diocese's committee on sexual misconduct for their work in refining a section of the diocese's policy on sexual misconduct. The diocese produced a separate section to deal with abuse of minors in response to national guidelines adopted at a Roman Catholic bishops conference in Dallas last year.

"This well-qualified board ... has produced a document that clearly articulates diocesan policy on the serious issue of clerical sexual abuse of minors," the auditors said in their report.

The diocese distributed copies of the policy to all parishes and institutions in the huge diocese, which covers more than 400,000 square miles and contains 48 parishes.

Kettler said auditors were uneasy, however, with the diocesan chancellor doing double duty as a victims' assistance coordinator. Such a dual role "could be perceived as a conflict of interest," Kettler said.

The bishop said he would recommend that two or three independent assistance coordinators be selected regionally.

The auditors also recommended clarifying the procedure for making a complaint.

Kettler said auditors suggested that alleged victims receive information on how to document allegations as well as services provided by the assistance coordinator.

"They want us to comply with these recommendations within the next few months," Kettler told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. "I see no problem with either of these recommendations."

He said the diocese's work is far from done, and its entire sexual misconduct policy, instituted in 1994, will be reviewed and revised.

All 195 U.S. Catholic dioceses are being reviewed, and the final audit report is expected to be made public by the end of the year. Audit teams in Alaska already have reviewed the Juneau and Anchorage dioceses.

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