A Good Faith Effort: Catholic Church Audit

Republican [Springfield MA]
January 10, 2004

An audit of the nation's 195 Roman Catholic dioceses concludes that 90 percent of the dioceses are complying with a 2002 pledge to protect children from sexually abusive priests.

A decade ago, such an audit would have been scandalous.

Today, after a half-century of institutional acceptance of abuse by the church, such an audit is heralded by church leaders as progress.

Here's the good news: This is the first time that the church has authorized outside auditors to go into each diocese and examine its procedures.

This is a significant and welcome step for an institution with a history of secrecy.

Here's the bad news: The audit was based largely on interviews with church leaders and church employees. The auditors did not have access to church personnel records and talked to only a small percentage of victims.

Some of the material given to auditors was provided by the same church leaders who failed to prevent the abuse in the past.

More important, while the audit may measure the church's compliance with new policy and procedure, any conclusion that does not include adequate input from victims is incomplete.

We view the audit as a positive step, but even in the best light it does not mean that the church is taking full responsibility for what has happened.

For decades, a number of church leaders failed children, their parishioners and church values by knowingly allowing the systematic abuse of children.

We were pleased to hear that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield was among the 90 percent found in compliance with the church's new policy, and the audit commended the local diocese's communications policy as reflecting "the bishops' pledge to be open and transparent on issues of sexual abuse of children."

The Springfield diocese, however, has repeatedly fought efforts by victims and their survivors to obtain diocesan records.

Still to come is information on how many priests have molested how many children over the last half century, and why the sexual abuse was allowed to continue for decades.

That information will be released in a separate report next month, and we hope for the sake of the church that the information is thorough and complete.


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