Diocese Concerned about Audit

Nashua Telegraph [Manchester NH]
September 12, 2004

MANCHESTER (AP) - Talks have broken down over auditing the Diocese of Manchester’s child protection policies and procedures.

Attorney General Kelly Ayotte says the state and church have a fundamental disagreement over the audit’s scope.

Ayotte would not specify the differences, but a lawyer for the Roman Catholic diocese said constitutional concerns divide them.

David Vicinanzo said the two disagree how much authority the state can have over internal church decisions without violating the Constitution.

"The diocese’s view is that the state, while acting in good faith, wants certain authority that neither the agreement nor the federal constitution permits, and which is unnecessary to performing the thorough and professional audit that was agreed upon," he said.

Vicinanzo said church-state issues are often complicated and have future consequences for society and the legal system.

Vicinanzo said the diocese remains open to continuing negotiations.

But Ayotte said the dispute probably will have to be resolved in court.

A hearing is scheduled Sept. 24 in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

The audit is required by the December 2002 agreement, in which Catholic leaders acknowledged having failed to protect children from abusive priests and agreed to reform their policies. In exchange, the state did not prosecute.

The audits allowed "without limitation" inspecting records and interviewing diocesan staff. They were to be done annually over five years ending Dec. 31, 2007.

To date, no audit has been done as both sides have wrangled over its scope and who should pay for it.

The state proposed to have the international accounting firm KPMG International perform the audit at a projected total cost of more than $1 million.

The diocese objected to KPMG’s proposal to have its investigators interview "10,000 so-called church ‘personnel’ - including lectors, Sunday school instructors, ushers and greeters" to test their knowledge of the state sex abuse and reporting laws.

The diocese objected it was an unnecessary incursion and would have a chilling effect on volunteer participation.

Due to the delay, Ayotte said the state may ask the court to extend the 2007 deadline.

"It just depends on how much work needs to be completed in the time that is left," she said.

Vicinanzo said the diocese has complied with the agreement.

But Ayotte said until an audit is done the state won’t know if that is true.


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