Bishops' President: Audit Will Show Dioceses Implementing Abuse Prevention Plan

January 4, 2004

The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops says an upcoming report on whether dioceses are implementing a mandatory discipline plan for sexually abusive priests will show "the bishops have kept our word" to punish offenders and protect children.

The audit found that dioceses "are either in full compliance or in the process of working toward compliance," Bishop Wilton Gregory said in an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC News' "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."

But he also said some of the 195 dioceses did not participate in the review. He would say only that the number was "minuscule" and their reasons will be included in the report, which is to be released Tuesday, two years after the abuse crisis began.

"The bishops have kept our word, that we intended to implement a protocol which we would follow in each diocese," he said. "And that, I believe, is an important step forward."

The bishops adopted the plan in June 2002, at the height of the scandal, which began two years ago this week with revelations about a single predatory priest in the Archdiocese of Boston and spread to every American diocese.

The policy not only requires bishops to bar guilty clergy from all public church-related work, but also mandates that the prelates take steps to prevent molestation, such as conducting background checks on all diocesan priests and lay workers and training them to identify abuse.

The bishops commissioned the audit, which will be conducted annually, as part of the policy. Gregory said he was confident the plan has been effective.

"I believe the policy is working well," said Gregory, of Belleville, Ill. "I believe we did the right thing."

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