Priest Abuse Victims Fault Church Report
Albany Diocese Properly Handled All Clergy Cases for 2nd Year, Audit Says

By Michele Morgan Bolton
Albany Times Union [Albany NY]
December 5, 2004

ALBANY -- A report finding the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has properly handled the clergy abuse crisis prompted a victims group to question the data.

The Capital Region chapter of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests called the report disingenuous Friday.

"In the spirit of good will, if the numbers are so good, then why not give up the personnel files?" said Mark Furnish, the director of the Capital Region chapter, who recently was named to the network's national board of directors. Church officials say the documents are protected by privacy considerations.

Furnish questioned the audit, which was paid for by the church, and said his conversations with other local victims indicate more priests -- about 20 or 25 -- are under inquiry than publicly acknowledged: "But, do I have a smoking gun? No, I don't."

Bishop Howard Hubbard removed two priests from ministry earlier this year after the Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board found reasonable grounds to believe allegations against them. Investigations are ongoing into claims against nine others, two of whom are in active ministry.

The report released Friday was completed by independent auditors commissioned by the U.S. bishops to study every Catholic diocese in America. The auditors found Albany has properly handled all issues related to the clergy abuse crisis for the second year in a row.

Included in the report by the Boston-based Gavin Group, in town from Nov. 1-4, was that the 14-county Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has "established clear and well-publicized standards of ministerial behavior."

Hubbard released a statement Friday in which he said church officials "continue to work diligently to ensure children and young people are safe in the Albany Diocese."

Pleased auditors again determined the diocese is following "the letter and the spirit" of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, he added: "We are continuing to meet our commitment to be transparent in our actions."

Auditors said the diocese has received no allegations of sexual abuse of a minor that would require a report to public authorities this year. Any complaints received in 2004 were about incidents alleged to have occurred between the 1940s and the 1980s, with about two-thirds occurring in the 1960s and 1970s, they acknowledged.

More than 40,000 children received awareness training; more than 12,000 employees and volunteers were trained in recognizing and preventing abuse; and more than 5,000 diocesan employees and volunteers underwent background checks, according to the audit.

New initiatives also assist victims and will work to prevent future abuse, it said.

The first round of national audits, conducted in 2003, found 90 percent of U.S. dioceses in compliance with the charter.


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