Keeping Accountability in Church

Journal Gazette [Fort Wayne IN]
November 1, 2003

The Fort Wayne-South Bend Roman Catholic diocese can take satisfaction from an independent audit showing the diocese fulfilling promises to curb sexual abuse of children by priests and others. But church leaders have more work to do in ensuring the success of new rules created to protect children from sexually deviant adults.

The audit's findings add to the record Bishop John D'Arcy has compiled as one of the leading bishops in the church's campaign to prevent more child abuse scandals like those that have jolted Boston, Los Angeles and other highly visible American dioceses in recent years.

D'Arcy described the Boston-based Gavin Group's findings in its report on his diocese as "excellent" and "fully in compliance" with new rules adopted by American bishops in June. The audit is one of many conducted nationwide to instill accountability among dioceses in following the rules.

The efforts in the diocese include introducing background checks among staff and volunteers and organizing meetings of priests, teachers, pastoral ministers and others to discuss how to protect children from molesters.

Any relief felt in dioceses receiving favorable audit reports should be tempered by the challenge of sustaining a strong commitment to rooting out child abuse after the investigators leave. Jay Carrigan, a co-chairman of the Indianapolis chapter of Voice of the Faithful, a Catholic reform group, is right in identifying the secretive, insular customs governing clergymen's relations with parishioners as the underlying cause of the sexual abuse scandals.

Church leaders should open the doors wider to participation by lay people in supervising parishes and dioceses. Rules are only as effective as their enforcement. Weak participation by the laity in church affairs increases the risk that some clergy members will revert to old ways in covering up sexual misconduct and other offenses by their members.

A new openness will go a long way toward helping the rules make a meaningful difference in protecting children from sexual predators.


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