Report to Show Most Dioceses Following Abuse Plan

Chicago Tribune
January 4, 2004

An upcoming report on whether Roman Catholic bishops are implementing their new mandatory discipline plan for sexually abusive priests will say most dioceses are complying, but "there is still a lot that needs to be done," the official overseeing the audit said Friday.

Kathleen McChesney, a former top FBI agent and head of the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, said the size of some of the largest dioceses slowed their progress, while others lacked the personnel or financing for quick compliance.

The plan not only dictates how bishops should respond to abuse claims, but also requires them to take steps to prevent molestation, such as conducting background checks on all clergy and lay workers in the diocese and training them to identify abuse. The largest archdioceses employ more than a thousand priests, McChesney said.

"Considering it's only been about a year since people have been working on it, there's been a lot of progress, but nobody is going to tell you that it's all been done," McChesney said in a phone interview. "What you're going to find is that most of them are [complying], but there is still a lot that needs to be done."

The report is scheduled to be released Tuesday in Washington. It is based on audits of all 195 U.S. dioceses conducted by the Gavin Group, a Boston consulting firm led by former FBI official Bill Gavin.

The bishops commissioned the review, which will be conducted annually, as part of a policy adopted at the height of the abuse crisis in June 2002.

The plan mandates that guilty priests be barred from public ministry--from celebrating mass to working in a church soup kitchen--although they would technically remain priests.

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