Audit of Gary Diocese Reveals Sexual Abuse by Four More Former Priests

Times [Merrillville IN]
Downloaded January 2, 2004

MERRILLVILLE -- Bishop Dale J. Melczek of the Diocese of Gary today released findings of two audits, conducted as part of a national effort, that deal with the issue of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church.

One study, conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, revealed that 13 allegations of sexual abuse of minors were received by the Diocese of Gary since its inception in 1957. Of those 13 allegations, abuse by at least four priests was substantiated by members of the Diocesan Response Team because those allegations had supporting evidence, Melczek said.

Two additional priests were named in allegations that the response team found to be lacking sufficient evidence for credibility, and three more priests were named in allegations that family members said they wanted to report but not have investigated, Melczek said.

The audit did not include the status of one defrocked diocesan priest, as it had been completed before the Dec. 20 announcement by Melczek that Monsignor Don Grass was removed from public ministry. Melczek said Grass, who had been pastor of St. Mary Church in Crown Point since 1983, was removed from ministry after admitting to Melczek he had sexually abused a 10- or 11-year-old girl in the late 1960s when serving at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary.

Today's release said five of the "credible" allegations centered on two priests from religious orders run independently from the diocese but ministering within the diocese. Those allegations were reported to the respective superiors of both religious orders, the report says. In one of those two cases, the diocese reports, "both the priest and his provincial are outside of the U.S."

The release also said allegations of sexual abuse were also credible against two diocesan priests who are deceased. It did not name the priests or give any dates.

The full release of the national study by John Jay College is scheduled for Feb. 27.

The second audit, executed by the Gavin Group, a Boston consulting firm led by former FBI official Bill Gavin, deals with how all 195 U.S. dioceses are complying with the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

According to Melczek's release today, the Diocese of Gary "was found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter," and was credited for having procedures in place, filing proper reports and establishing clear-cut standards for those who minister.

The national Gavin report is scheduled to be released Tuesday.

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