Catholic Church
Audit Finds Diocese Meets Abuse Policy

By Jay Tokasz
Buffalo News [Buffalo NY]
September 13, 2003

Independent investigators from Boston have determined that the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is complying with a new national policy guiding dioceses in their efforts to clean up a clergy sexual abuse scandal.

The audit followed Bishop Henry J. Mansell's recent removal of several priests because of allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

The auditors, from the Gavin Group in Boston, completed their analysis Friday.

They were in town for five days to determine if the diocese was appropriately implementing the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a national policy approved by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Among other stipulations, the charter calls on bishops to conduct a thorough review of all priest personnel files and for the removal of any priest "for even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor - past, present or future."

Earlier this week, Mansell confirmed that he had recently removed "various priests" from active ministry. The bishop declined to provide the priests' names or details of the cases. He did say the allegations had occurred mostly in the 1970s and 1980s and the accused priests had been treated prior to returning to work.

Auditors interviewed Mansell, diocesan employees, members of a local lay review board that consults the bishop on issues related to sexual abuse allegations, and people outside the diocese.

Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark, for example, met Wednesday for about a half-hour with the two auditors.

The auditors checked on the diocese's establishment of a "safe environment program" and on whether it had hired an assistance coordinator to handle claims of abuse, among other issues. The safe environment program includes sexual abuse awareness training and background checks for thousands of diocesan employees and volunteers. The auditors did not look at clergy personnel files.

"It was an exhaustive, extensive audit," said diocesan spokesman Kevin A. Keenan.

The auditors did not have any corrections for diocesan policies, but they did make a couple of recommendations for consideration.

In a statement, Mansell said he will implement the recommendations in the next few weeks.

"This is another indication that we are taking the necessary steps to protect children and young people," Mansell said in his statement.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has hired the Gavin Group, headed by William Gavin, an experienced compliance auditor formerly with the FBI, to conduct audits in all of the 195 Catholic dioceses and eparchies in the United States.

The results of the audits will be forwarded to the National Office for Child and Youth Protection, a department of the bishops' conference. They will be included in a public report to a national review board by the end of the year.


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