Bishops Focus on Abuse Audits

By Trevis R. Badeaux
The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
June 15, 2004

LAFAYETTE — The sex abuse scandal that rocked the U.S. leg of the Roman Catholic church in recent years will once again be a topic of discussion when the week-long U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops meets for its spring session, which began Monday.

Business matters during the annual spring session are put aside for prayer and reflection once every five years. The bishops are scheduled to pray for the worldwide church’s estimated one billion members, the church itself, its ministry and the United States, said spokesman Bill Ryan, who likened the session to a “spiritual retreat.”

However, the bishops, set to gather at the Inverness Hotel in Englewood, Colo., plan to review an update on the progress of individual diocesan audits ordered after the adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The task force recently gained national notoriety after politicians, including presidential hopeful John Kerry, were urged to stop receiving the sacraments because they are pro-choice, support the death penalty or have some other stance not in line with official church teachings and policies.

Media outlets will not be allowed. There will be no news conferences to inform the public about what the bishops discuss or decide behind closed doors. Little, if any, information will be posted on the official conference Web site, Ryan said.

The Lafayette Diocese received a positive report after its on-site visit in August 2003. Auditors made few recommendations for improvement. By the close of the audit period in November 2003, the diocese was found to be in compliance with the requirements laid out by the bishops conference.

Bishop Michael Jarrell said to date the diocese conducted 10,582 criminal background checks on employees and volunteers who work with children. Clergy, employees, volunteers, parents and children attended several educational sessions on the church’s new sex abuse policies.

“I believe the audit helped us to understand some of the requirements of the Charter for the Protection for Children and Young People,” Jarrell said. “The audit forms were more specific than the charter. The auditors were helpful in sharing what they learned in other dioceses.”


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