U.S. Bishops Approve New Audit of Dioceses

U.S.A. Today [Denver]
June 16, 2004

U.S. Roman Catholic bishops, accused of backsliding on compliance with their prevention policies on child sexual abuse, on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a new round of diocese-by-diocese scrutiny.

In June 2002, bishops established a policy to report and prevent child abuse by clergy and reach out to victims. The policy featured publicly reported compliance "audits" of all dioceses.

When the 2003 audits, conducted by the bishops' Office of Child and Youth Protection, were presented in January, 90% of dioceses were found in compliance. The office's director and an independent board established to oversee bishops' efforts and help them restore public credibility called for a repeat of audits in 2004.

But some bishops complained that auditing again so soon would be costly and unnecessary. They wanted to discuss changes in November. Victims' advocates and lay activists objected, and review board head Anne Burke, an Illinois Appellate justice, accused bishops of "backsliding."

The outcry prompted the bishops to move up the discussion to their summer meeting this week near Denver. On Tuesday, they voted to conduct the audits this year, 207 in favor and 14 opposed. One abstained.

"The message is clear," Burke said. "Children will be safe from harm in the Catholic church, and the bishops and lay people will work on this together."


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