Diocese in Compliance with Protecting Kids from Sex Abuse
Audit Finds That National Guidelines Are Being Followed

By Kevin Kilbane
News-Sentinel [Fort Wayne IN]
October 22, 2004

Bishop John M. D’Arcy of the Catholic Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend said an audit found the diocese in compliance with national guidelines established to protect children and young people from sexual abuse.

D’Arcy also cautioned priests and deacons in the diocese about stating or implying how people should vote in the Nov. 2 election.

? Auditors from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Office for the Protection of Children audited the diocese Oct. 11-14, D’Arcy said. The regularly scheduled audit focused on activity in the diocese during the last 14 months, particularly on efforts at the parish level to ensure a safe environment for children.

"We were found fully in compliance."

During the audit period, the diocese has been working to screen and perform criminal history checks on all priests, deacons, church staff, school staff and volunteers who might have contact with children, D’Arcy said. The diocese also has designed and started a program to teach children what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior by adults they might encounter at church or school.

In June 2002, U.S. Catholic bishops established a formal review board and auditing process to ensure the safety of children at Catholic churches and schools. The action came after numerous reports surfaced about children being sexually abused by priests at parishes around the nation.

A policy D’Arcy adopted shortly after becoming bishop of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese in 1985 appears to have prevented problems here.

? About the election, D’Arcy issued his statement to priests and deacons because of the contentious nature of this year’s presidential race. He also had heard at least one report of a diocesan priest suggesting or implying how congregation members should vote.

"My own conviction is that the pulpit is a place for the word of God," said D’Arcy, noting he has considered issuing a similar caution during past elections.

Priests and deacons should encourage people to vote, he said. He also believes people in diocesan congregations welcome priests and deacons providing theological background on important issues.

But comments by priests and deacons should end there, he said.

Walking that line between providing information and promoting a candidate has become more difficult for clergy in recent years, he said, because faith concerns, such as abortion and the sanctity of marriage, also have become political issues.


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