Steps Taken to Keep Kids Safe
Diocese's New Compliance Officer Will Ensure Background Checks Are Being Conducted
By Dave Janoski
November 11, 2006
Scranton – Gail MacKenzie-Fromm, the Diocese of Scranton's new compliance officer for policies to prevent child sex abuse, sees her job as helping to "protect God's children."
MacKenzie-Fromm's hiring to the newly created position is the latest step in the diocese's "continuing efforts to provide safe environments for children," according to an announcement in this week's Catholic Light, the diocesan newspaper.
MacKenzie-Fromm, who joins the diocese after 11 years as a sales representative in the pharmaceutical industry, will be charged with ensuring the schools and parishes conduct background checks of all employees and any volunteers who spend 20 hours or more per week with children.
"We want to let child sex abusers out there know that the Catholic Church is not a place you can hide," MacKenzie-Fromm said in a phone interview Friday.
The diocese is defending itself against two lawsuits filed by men who claim they were abused by diocesan priests when they were minors – one in 1999-2002, the other in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The priest in the 1999-2002 case, Albert Liberatore, pleaded guilty to sexually abusing the plaintiff and was subsequently defrocked. The priest in the earlier case, Robert N. Caparelli, pleaded guilty to abusing two Pike County altar boys in the 1990s and died in prison.
At least 25 priests in the diocese have been accused of sexual contact with minors since 1950, according to diocesan reports. Liberatore and Caparelli are the only ones ever charged criminally.
The compliance issues now handled by MacKenzie-Fromm, who's been on the job since Oct. 23, were formerly handled by the diocese's Youth and Young Adult Ministry.
She is in the process of visiting parishes and schools across the 11-county diocese to check their compliance with background-check requirements.
Thousands of diocesan employees and volunteers are subject to those requirements as well as mandatory participation in the diocesan VIRTUS program, which trains them to recognize and report the signs of sexual abuse. Nearly 14,000 diocesan employees and volunteers have been through the VIRTUS program since 2003, according to the diocese.
MacKenzie-Fromm, 50, has a bachelor's degree in education from the State University of New York at Brockport. She is a Eucharistic minister, lector and volunteer in the religious education program at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Archbald. She and her husband, Stig Fromm, who works for the United Way of Lackawanna County, have two children, ages 18 and 23.
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