D'Arcy's Statement on Sexual Abuse by Priests
News-Sentinel [South Bend IN]
December 11, 2003
The prepared text of Bishop John D'Arcy's statement on abuse audits:
"The Catholic Church in this country has passed through and, in a sense, is still passing through the most serious moral and spiritual crisis in its history.
"As part of facing up to this crisis in the spirit of truth to which the church must always be faithful as part of its fidelity to the Gospel, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in June 2002. The charter addresses the church's commitment to deal appropriately and effectively with cases of sexual abuse of minors by priests, deacons and other church personnel.
"The USCCB also decreed a companion document, Essential Norms, to guide dioceses in this country when dealing with allegations of sexual abuse of minors by a priest, deacon or other church personnel. The Essential Norms received the recognitio (recognition) of the Holy See in December 2002, thereby becoming the law of the church for dioceses in this country.
"Consistent with the charter, the USCCB has undertaken three studies. The first study is an audit to determine whether or not each diocese is in compliance with what was promised in the charter.
"I understand that this study is to be made public on Jan. 6, 2004. It will indicate those dioceses which are in compliance with the charter, and those which are not.
"In an article in the Nov. 9, 2003 issue of our diocesan newspaper, Today's Catholic, reprinted in our three major newspapers, I have already shared with the people of our diocese the substance of the preliminary report given by the two auditors who conducted the audit of our diocese this past August. This report found us to be in full compliance, with several commendations for what we have done and no recommendations for changes to our procedures.
"Also, two articles in the charter (Articles 8 and 9) were written to insure the accountability of our procedures. I draw your attention to the following words.
"To understand the problem more fully and enhance the effectiveness of our future response, the National Review Board will commission a comprehensive study of the causes and context of the current crisis. The board will also commission a descriptive study, with the full cooperation of our dioceses/eparchies, of the nature and scope of the problem within the Catholic Church in the United States, including such data as statistics on perpetrators and victims.
"The report on those studies is scheduled to be made public in late February 2004. The first, commissioned by the National Review Board (made up entirely of Catholic laity), under the authority given by the bishops, will study and report on the nature and scope of this crisis. The National Review Board commissioned the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, which is part of City University of New York, to do this study, which consists of a survey of all dioceses in this country.
"Our diocese has replied in full to this inquiry. I understand that this is to be a national study on the nature and scope of this crisis, but will not refer to the specifics of any one diocese.
"The other study, to be released on the same day, has been undertaken directly by the National Review Board, and so far consists of hundreds of interviews across the country. At the request of the bishops, this National Review Board study probes the context and causes of this crisis.
"I was invited to be interviewed by a committee of this board, which included Justice Anne M. Burke of the Illinois Appellate Court, the interim chair of the National Review Board, and attorney Robert Bennett. I was pleased to meet with them in Chicago for a wide-ranging conversation on this topic, which was especially related to the letters I wrote in Boston, to my seminary work and to my experience in this diocese.
The local church of Fort Wayne-South Bend
"Since neither of these two national studies will give specifics on any particular diocese, it seemed appropriate and timely for me to present to the public an accounting concerning our diocese. First, I will present the result of our review going back to 1950, and then I will give a complete review of the 18 years that I have been privileged to be bishop of this historic diocese. I present this in the spirit of Article 7 of the charter, which states:
"Each diocese/eparchy will develop a communications policy that reflects a commitment to transparency and openness. Within the confines of respect for the privacy and the reputation of the individuals involved, diocese/eparchies will deal as openly as possible with members of the community.
"In order that this report will be as complete as possible, as I pledged previously, we have reviewed all parish annual reports as well as diocesan files of priests who have served in this diocese from 1950 until the present time. This is more expansive by one year than the period of time covered by the John Jay College survey, which covered 1950 to 2002.
"From 1950 to 2002, a total of 805 priests served in pastoral ministry in the diocese. This includes priests who were active or retired during that time. It includes all priests who lived in or served in parishes for any period of time or were involved in pastoral work, such as parishes, hospitals, diocesan schools, etc. This number includes both diocesan priests and priests who are members of religious orders. Each served in some capacity under the diocesan bishops assignment.
Number of priests against whom credible allegations have been made
"During that time, (actually 1950 to the present time) we have determined that credible allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor have been made against 16 different priests. This does not mean those priests were found guilty of a civil law crime by the civil law beyond a reasonable doubt standard. It means that after careful inquiry, the diocese determined that the accusation(s) against these 16 priests have been found to be credible based upon the charter's definition of acts that constitute sexual abuse and the outcome of the dioceses investigation of the claims. Some of the 16 priests denied the allegations, others did not. Some were deceased at the time the allegations were presented.
"(In addition to the 16, there was one credible accusation against a priest which referred to sexual abuse of someone not a minor. I wish to include reference to this accusation because the circumstances and the nature of the act made it, in my opinion, a serious act of sexual abuse, albeit against an adult. The accused priest was removed from ministry. Thus, this brings to 17 the total number of priests reported to the diocese who we have determined were credibly accused of acts of sexual abuse, 16 involving minors.)
"There were 11 other priests accused, to one degree or another, of the sexual abuse of a minor during that time frame. Those allegations were either anonymous or so vague that a full and fair investigation was impossible, or it was determined, after a full and fair investigation, that the charges were without foundation. One of those priests was also exonerated through the civil court process when it was determined that there was no credible evidence presented to support the claims made against him.
"Of the 16 priests against whom accusations of the sexual abuse of a minor were found to be credible, 14 were diocesan priests and two were members of religious congregations serving in this diocese.
"How many people have come forward claiming to have been abused by one of these 16 priests? Painfully, it must be declared that a total number of 33 such people have come forward and their claims have been found to be credible.
"Taking into account that 805 priests have served in this diocese from 1950-2002, the 16 priests who have been credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor account for slightly less than 2 percent of the total number. The percentage is small, but unacceptable. One is too many.
"Of the 16 priests credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor, 12 did so against boys and 4 against girls.
Time frame of occurrence of misconduct raised in these accusations
"It would seem appropriate to indicate the decades in which the misconduct that was involved in the credible allegations from the 33 accusers was alleged to have taken place and the following graph does so.
1950s: 8 accusers
1960s: 6 accusers
1970s: 2 accusers
1980s: 15 accusers
1990 to the present: 2 accusers (non-touching)
"The diocese has not received a credible complaint involving an act of physical sexual abuse of a minor that was alleged to have occurred after 1987. The events complained of regarding conduct that occurred in the 1990s did not involve physical touching. Those events involved non-touching, flirtatious activity which is prohibited by the charter, and by pre-charter diocesan standards and long-standing sound Catholic moral and spiritual teaching, even though, I am told, such conduct is not violative of civil law. This priest, as well as all the other credibly accused priests who were still alive at the time the accusation was received and investigated, has been removed from ministry.
"One of those credibly accused had already been suspended from ministry prior to my arrival as bishop of this diocese. His suspension was due to allegations reported to the diocese prior to 1985.
Since May 1, 1985
"I have been bishop here since May 1, 1985. In the interest of full accountability, it is appropriate to share with our people what actions have been taken with regard to the 15 priests who have been reported to the diocese since that time.
"Fourteen of the 15 priests against whom credible allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor were reported to the diocese since May 1, 1985, were in ministry, active or retired, when I was installed as bishop. One was deceased. Two died after I was installed, but prior to the time that any allegations against them were received by the diocese. One priest was infirm, in a semi-comatose state, when the credible allegation was received. During my time as bishop, all 11 of the other credibly accused priests were removed from ministry, either by requesting and receiving their resignation, laicization, the removal of faculties, or suspension. These actions were taken after reports were made to the diocese and the facts were established.
"In total, including the priest who had sexually abused the young adult, I have personally removed 12 priests from ministry for reasons related to alleged sexual abuse.
"There is no priest now working in the diocese, approved for priestly ministry, against whom any credible accusation of sex abuse has been made.
"It also seems appropriate for our people to be made aware of the decades of ordination of the credibly accused priests. That information is provided as follows:
"Number of credibly accused priests ordained during the following decades:
1920s: 1 1930s: 0 1940s: 2 1950s: 4 1960s: 2 1970-85: 7 1986-present: 0
"It is also important to share the total amount of funds paid by the diocese related to these matters. This includes funds paid to or for the benefit of those whose accusations were determined to be credible, as well as amounts paid to or for the benefit of accusers whose accusations were determined to be unfounded.
"In one case, the diocese even paid to provide counseling for someone who could not identify any priest as the individual who was alleged to have caused any harm.
"The diocese also has provided counseling to some who have accused a priest of misconduct even though the accusation was determined to be unfounded. This was done even before the adoption of the charter. It was done in order to be as pastoral and caring as possible.
"The dollar amounts provided below were determined based upon our best knowledge after review of diocesan records. We believe them to be accurate, although we recognize there may be some variance, probably small, due to the large time frame at issue.
"From 1985 to 2002, the total amount paid to or for the benefit of individuals who have presented allegations, which includes counseling and other things, was $633,963. Of this amount, insurance paid $384,955. The diocese paid $249,008. This amount certainly has changed and is changing since the diocese is currently providing assistance in the form of counseling to some individuals. The number is growing, albeit not at a substantial rate in recent years.
"I also wish to include the amount paid by the diocese for the evaluation and treatment of the accused priests. The total paid for evaluation, counseling and treatment of all accused priests, regardless of whether the priest was credibly accused, was $291,869. The amount of this sum paid by insurance was $85,992. The amount paid by the diocese was $205,877.
"It is also appropriate to share the amount paid by the diocese for legal fees related to those allegations received from 1985 to 2002. Legal fees were $437,233. Insurance paid $56,875. Thus, the total amount for legal fees paid by the diocese during that time frame for reasons related to these claims made against priests was $380,358.
"Thus, the total amount paid from 1985 to 2002 on all matters related to this crisis is as follows:
Total amount paid: $1,363,065
Amount paid by insurance: $527,822
Amount paid by diocese: $835,243
"No monies were ever taken from parish funds to pay any of the above expenses.
"No funds were ever taken from the Annual Bishops Appeal to pay any of these expenses. Funds were taken from diocesan reserves and from diocesan investments. No funds have ever been paid by our diocese to any other diocese to assist that other diocese for any reason related to this crisis and this will continue to be our policy.
"Complete reports on the financial expenditures were given to the diocesan finance council, which is made up of 11 laity, one sister and one priest, on two occasions over the years. Complete expenditure of funds was also shared at two meetings of our priests, first several years ago and, most recently, last month.
Publicity and policies
"I have written eight op-ed pieces concerning various aspects of this crisis which have been printed in each of the three major newspapers in the diocese. In these, and in other sources, notably in our newspaper, Today's Catholic, we have presented to our people in a public way the procedures and policies of our diocese for investigating these types of allegations.
"I began to shape these policies as soon as I arrived in the diocese. This included the development of procedures for the investigation of allegations against priest(s), and child abuse and neglect policies and procedures for use in our diocesan schools.
"Those procedures concerning priests have always provided that no priest who is credibly accused of the sexual abuse of a minor would be allowed to serve in a ministerial capacity in this diocese.
"These policies and procedures have also mandated that the diocese comply with civil law requirements for reporting incidents of child sexual abuse.
"We have always been vigilant of possible reasons to improve our procedures. Indeed, the dioceses procedures have been improved and refined over the years, most recently at the time of the promulgation of the charter. We will continue to work on them and improve them as the need arises. The procedures are on our Web site, www.diocesefwsb.org.
"I have met with seven of those who claimed to have experienced these terrible acts. I have extended to them personally my sorrow, my apology in the name of Christ and the church and my assurance and promise of appropriate counseling, therapy and pastoral assistance.
"In addition, I have met with seven family members who claim some form of abuse against a member of their family by a priest. Father Robert C. Schulte, vicar general and diocesan assistance coordinator, has had 45-50 meetings and telephone conversations with those who claim this victimization. Prior to Father Schulte becoming vicar general, Msgr. J. William Lester, P.A. and Msgr. James J. Wolf had met with many accusers. Mrs. Terri Johns, who assists us, has also begun to meet with those bringing such claims.
"All of the claims that we have received in recent years involve things alleged to have occurred many years ago, some of them about priests who have died. Seven of the claimants were moved to come forward about such events when the national publicity grew in the past few years. This does not reduce our willingness to share the compassion and love of Christ and also to express our most profound regret. Nor does it lessen our resolve to hear others who may claim to have been victimized in this fashion, no matter when the misconduct is alleged to have occurred.
"Our Web site contains contact information to assist anyone who wishes to report a claim to Father Schulte. We have placed similar announcements in our parish bulletins on two occasions over the last four months.
Concluding words on the past
"The priesthood has always been and remains a noble vocation. People, especially children, rightly look to the priest with trust, respect and love.
"I give thanks to God for the worthy and stalwart priests in the diocese who have lived valiantly without ever violating their promises and vows. For them this time has not been without pain. I extend to all the Catholics of the diocese and all people of good will my sorrow that this has taken place. I take joy in the fact that there has been no credible accusation of physical sexual involvement with a minor made against any priest of this diocese ordained after 1986, and that the last physical sexual abuse reported in our diocese was alleged to have occurred in 1987.
"These events make clear what has always been true. Every bishop bears the sacred responsibility of exercising the greatest possible care in determining who is admitted to the seminary and who is eventually ordained.
"For 35 years, since I began my work as a seminary spiritual advisor, I have been convinced that the bishop bears a solemn responsibility to see that no man who is incapable of living a chaste life, integrating a life of holiness with a fully human life, and doing it with joy, shall be ordained to the priesthood.
"I believe God will judge every bishop, will indeed judge me, on how careful we have been in this diocese on this matter. As I wrote for the New England bishops in our pastoral letter of 1978:
"'Young men who show signs that they will not be able to integrate their sexuality into the priestly vocation should not be admitted until there are such positive signs. Thus, there must be evidence that a man will be able to resist the need for sexual gratification without suppressing any area of his humanity. So a man who seems unable to come to heterosexual maturity should not be admitted.
A Letter on Priestly Formation, 1978
"The life of a priest, by its very nature, requires unselfishness, purity of heart and the ability to integrate the beautiful gift of sexuality into a life of chaste, celibate love. Thousands of priests throughout the world have shown that such a beautiful life is possible. It is the life being lived by the priests now serving in our diocese. I can assure our people that the vocational discernment exercised since I have become your bishop and in the future will be of the very highest quality, as church documents have always asked.
"I close with the following words from the Second Vatican Council:
"'Notwithstanding the regrettable shortage of priests, due strictness should always be brought to bear on the choice and testing of students. God will not allow the church to lack ministers if the worthy are promoted and those who are not suited to the ministry are guided with fatherly kindness and in due time to adopt another calling. These should be directed in such a way that, conscious of their Christian vocation, they will zealously engage in the lay apostolate. Second Vatican Council: Decree on the Training of Priests."'
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