Church Winning Sex-Abuse Battle

By Stephanie Saul
Newsday [Brooklyn NY]
January 2, 2004

The Diocese of Brooklyn has made progress in implementing its sexual abuse prevention program, but an audit sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops finds it lags in three areas a written code of conduct for priests, background checks for employees and volunteers, and a training program to help children identify sexual abuse.

Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio's office released a summary report of the audit Friday and promised to immediately rectify two of the deficiencies. DeMarzio plans to communicate with diocesan priests next week about the written code of conduct and background checks, according to diocesan spokesman Frank DeRosa.

Details of DiMarzio's plans were not available Friday, DeRosa said.

The audit of the Brooklyn diocese's performance is part of a national review to determine how the 195 Roman Catholic dioceses in the United States are complying with anti-sexual abuse standards adopted in June 2002 by the Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops conference retained the Gavin Group, a Boston consulting firm headed by a former FBI official, to conduct the review.

The national audit is expected to be released Tuesday. Kathleen McChesney, head of the Bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the report will show that "a lot has been accomplished and a lot more has to be accomplished."

McChesney told The Associated Press that the audit found "a few" abusive priests still in ministry across the country, but they had been removed.

The Archdiocese of New York issued a statement Friday saying that the audit will show it is in compliance with "virtually every aspect" of the guidelines.

A spokesman for Cardinal Edward Egan, Joseph Zwilling, declined to release a summary report of its audit. "We simply do not have a report we can release at this time," Zwilling said.

The Brooklyn diocese, which covers 1.8 million Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens, also is working to implement a program for children the third deficiency noted in the audit, according to the statement issued Friday.

Brooklyn has complied with many of the national guidelines, the audit finds. Those areas include communicating with civil authorities about sexual abuse allegations, training diocesan personnel and elementary teachers in sexual abuse prevention, and removing priests who face credible allegations of sexual abuse.

The audit says that 16 "removed" priests of the Brooklyn diocese had "taken up residency" outside the diocese and that "appropriate notifications had been made." The statement was an apparent indication that other dioceses had been notified of the status of those priests.

The auditors also note that a new bishop recently became head of the Brooklyn diocese, which had waited for his approval to implement some programs. DiMarzio took over in October, succeeding retired Bishop Thomas Daily.

The panel commended Daily's decision, during the 1990s, to establish a review panel to examine sexual abuse allegations. That was well before the extent of sexual abuse within the church was widely known.

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