Ohio Catholic Bishops Offer Counseling for Abused
The Catholic Bishops of Ohio Set up and Independent Fund to Offer PsychoLogical Help to Victims of Sexual Abuse at the Hands of Clergy and Religious; Oversight by Non-Catholic Clergy

Spero News [Ohio]
December 24, 2006

The Ohio Catholic bishops, through the Catholic Conference of Ohio, have created a new fund, independent of the church, to help adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse. The Counseling Assistance Fund is designed to provide counselling or similar mental health services for persons who were sexually abused as minors by clergy or other representatives of the Catholic Church.

Currently, each Ohio Catholic bishop, through the diocese’s Victim Assistance Program, offers survivors of abuse the opportunity to receive counselling or other assistance, to aid in the healing process. This new fund offers another op0tion for healing.

The new Counseling Assistance Fund will consider claims from those who were abused by clergy or other representatives of the Catholic Church and were Ohio residents at the time. A Web site has been created to assist those wishing to file a claim.

"This fund is different from existing forms of assistance because it will serve people who are reluctant to contact the church for counselling or similar mental health services. This new fund provides an opportunity for persons to present their needs for counselling through a process independent of the Church," said Timothy Luckhaupt, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Ohio. "Experts confirm that counselling is a vital part of the healing process, and we want all survivors of abuse to know they have choices and support in getting counselling."

"Counseling is a critical component for victims of childhood sexual abuse who often have kept the abuse secret for many years,: said Darla Bolon, a Columbus OH clinical social worker who has counselled survivors of sexual abuse for 25 years. "It is a great benefit that the Church is making the issue so public and open."

"The effects of sexual abuse don’t end with the abuse incident," Bolon said. "Often as adults, victims have issues with trust because they were abused by someone in the Church whom they trusted. Providing a way for them to work outside the Church is key."

About the fund

The eight dioceses and one eparchy comprising the Catholic conference of Ohio have contributed a total of $3 million that has been placed in a fund with Fifth Third Bank, Central Ohio, as trustee. Administrative expenses are paid directly by the Catholic Conference to assure that all money is available for counselling services. The fund will accept claims over the next 18 months, beginning November 16.

The Counselling Assistance Fund is accessed through a Claim Form that can be submitted to one of the fund’s Counseling Claims Administrators. The Counseling Claims Administrators have been appointed by county probate court judges. Their role is to help an individual file a claim, not to determine the merits or validity of any claim. This is the role of the Claims Award Panel.

Terms of the fund provide that:

  • One member of the Claims Award Panel to be appointed by Lawrence Belskis, senior judge of the Probate Court of Franklin County. The person appointed is Michael Close, retired judge, Franklin County Court of Appeals, currently in private law practice with Wiles, Boyle, Burkholder and Brindgardner.

  • One member of the panel is to be appointed by Yvette McGee Brown, president, Center for Child and Family Advocacy, Columbus. The person appointed is Kim Davis, director, Children’s Hospital Behavioural Health, Columbus.

  • The remaining member of the panel is to be appointed by the other two appointed members. A determination made by a majority of these members currently appointed and serving will be final.

    Persons whose claims are approved may obtain services from any mental health provide licensed in the state where the claimant resides. Providers will be paid directly by the fund.

    A claim may be made unless the person has:

  • Previously reached a settlement of an abuse claim with any bishop, diocese or Catholic entity;

  • Legal action pending as to an abuse claim;

  • Received a determination by a court as to any abuse claim;

  • Previously received counselling or financial assistance for counselling or is currently receiving counselling or financial assistance for counselling under a Diocesan Victim Assistance Program.

    A person who elects to file a claim with the Counseling Assistance Fund is not eligible to make a claim or receive assistance from a Diocesan Victim Assistance Programme.

    Reaching survivors of sexual abuse

    On the Counseling Assistance Fund website can be found the Claim Form, reference links, and background information on the fund. Anyone who does not have Web access, or who needs assistance completing the Claim Form can call any Counseling Claims Administrator. These persons have been appointed by county probate court judges to assist individuals in filing a claim. The names and contact information are as follows:

    North Central Ohio
    John K. O’Toole, Attorney
    1370 Ontario Street, Suite 1240
    Cleveland OH 44113
    (216) 685-9940, ext. 106

    Central Ohio
    Alphonse Cincione, Attorney
    50 W. Broad Street, Suite 700
    Columbus OH 43215

    Eastern Ohio
    Lynette A. Hawrot
    Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
    2718 Sunset Blvd.
    Steubenville OH 43952
    (740) 266-6040

    Southwest Ohio
    Rev. Clyde Miller
    Pastor Emeritus
    First Christian Assembly
    220 William Howard Taft
    Cincinnati OH 45219

    Northeast Ohio
    Marilyn Pogue
    P.O. Box 8531
    Warren OH 44484
    (330) 766—4858

    Northwest Ohio
    Dean Meinke
    License Psychologist
    c/o Hope Lutheran Church
    2201 Secor Road
    Toledo OH 43606
    (419) 536-8383

    "The Church is strongly committed to helping those who have been harmed in the past. It is equally committed to protecting young people from future instances of sexual abuse by clergy or other representatives of the Church, and reporting abuse to law enforcement officials, as required by law," Luckhaupt said.

    To that end, Ohio dioceses, over the years, have arranged for many survivors of sexual abuse to receive counselling services. Each diocese has a Victim Assistance Coordinator to help those who wish to report an allegation of abuse.

    "Since 2002, each Ohio diocese also has initiated a Safe Environment Programme and preventing child abuse," Luckhaupt said. The Safe Environment Programmes are based on requirements outlined in the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," issued by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. "More than 450,000 Ohioans affiliated with diocesan organizations and churches have attended our child protection training."

    In accordance with the charter, full-time and part-time employees and volunteers of the Catholic Church who, in their daily responsibilities work directly with children must attend the Safe Environment Program. These persons also are subject to mandatory background checks.

    About the the Catholic Conference of Ohio

    Founded in 1945, the conference represents the Church’s position before various state departments, bureaus, agencies and other organizations. The conference also provides facilitation, coordination and joint programming for diocesan groups involved in various Church ministries.

    The Catholic Conference of Ohio is composed of the six Roman Catholic dioceses in the state – Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Steubenville, Toledo, and Youngstown – along with the Parma Byzantine Eparchy, the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton and the Ukrainian Catholic diocese of St. Josaphat in Parma.

    This article appears here exclusively and with the express permission of Horizons, the official newspaper of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Parma OH.


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