Critics of Guidelines Say Audit Is Flawed

Gazette - Times
Downloaded January 7, 2003

Critics of the way the Catholic Church has responded to sexual abuses against children by priests say the audit of church efforts to prevent future problems is flawed.

The independent review of the 195 U.S. dioceses indicated 90 percent of them are in compliance with new guidelines established in 2002 by bishops in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."

The prelates commissioned the report from the Gavin Group of Boston, a firm led by former FBI official William Gavin, and the investigation was overseen by Kathleen McChesney, a former top FBI agent and head of the bishops' watchdog Office of Child and Youth Protection.

But victim advocates said bishops had too much control of how the audit was conducted, so it should be viewed skeptically.

The bishops recommended whom the auditors should interview. And according to the report, auditors were unable to view personnel files that would verify whether bishops were complying with the policy's ban on transferring offenders from one diocese to another.

"This is the bishops grading themselves based on a test they devised," said Peter Isely, of the Midwest chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. "I don't think anyone is going to be too surprised that after years of chronic failure they are now going to tell us they have miraculously become star performers."

However, Gavin insisted the audits were comprehensive and accurate. Investigators did not view personnel records because of "sensitivity to laws and privacy violations that may occur." Otherwise, he said, "We had free rein."

The review was meant to help enforce the reforms and will be conducted annually. However, there is no mechanism to sanction those who don't comply. Under church law, each diocese is autonomous and bishops answer to the Vatican, not each other.

The bishops adopted the reforms 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. The files showed church officials let the priest serve even after repeated allegations of abuse.

The crisis spread to every American diocese. Since then, thousands of new abuse claims have been made against dioceses across the country.


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