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  Hawai'i Diocese Faulted in Audit

By Dooley Jim
Honolulu Advertiser
January 6, 2004

An audit of the Diocese of Honolulu, part of a nationwide effort to quantify sexual abuse by priests and analyze efforts to assist victims, faulted local church leaders for only recently developing an outreach program for victims and being late in developing "clear standards of behavior" required of priests and other church officials in regular contact with minors.

The audit also ordered the diocese to develop a "safe environment" training program for clergy, educators, parents, employees and volunteers working with children and to make sure that background checks be performed for all personnel in regular contact with children.

The diocese said it recently developed its training program and is working with the city prosecutor's office and its own legal personnel in finalizing the background check program. It also has started an outreach program with Catholic Charities Hawaii and has adopted a code of conduct for priests and other church personnel.

In 10 other areas, the audit found the diocese to be in compliance with directives adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 after a devastating clergy sex-abuse scandal shook the church. The diocese was praised for establishing a policy on alleged sexual misconduct within the church in 1990 and for establishing a standing committee to advise the bishop on misconduct allegations.

The audit was one of 195 conducted by the Gavin Group, a Boston consulting firm led by former FBI official Bill Gavin, which examined all dioceses at the behest of U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A separate study, conducted by the John Jay College Criminal Justice in New York, sought a comprehensive count of how many priests abused minors around the country since 1950. The two local studies were detailed last week by Hawaii Catholic Herald, the official church publication.

In its report to John Jay College, the diocese of Honolulu reported that it had substantiated molestation allegations against five Catholic priests involving at least eight children in Hawai'i since the 1960s, a figure it has made public in the past. The diocese said that none of the priests remains in active ministry and that just $9,000 has been paid as a result of a substantiated allegation - money that was paid to a psychiatrist a decade ago to help an abuse victim.

Eugene Saulibio, local representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a victims' advocacy group, said yesterday the studies were "fundamentally flawed" because they undercounted the number of victims both locally and nationally.

Saulibio also said he has met "with a lot of people who were abused by priests here but who are not part of this report because they're afraid to come forward."

The priests were not identified in the report, but three have been previously made public through lawsuits and public statements from the church:

* Joseph Bukoski III was removed as pastor of a Lahaina, Maui, church in 2002 after allegations of sexual abuse of two minors in the 1970s became public. Bukoski lost an appeal to Rome for reinstatement. His two accusers, including Saulibio, filed civil suits against Bukoski last year. He has denied wrongdoing and the suits are pending.

* Robert De Otero, accused of molesting two boys at a Kalihi church in the 1980s. Like Bukoski, De Otero was removed from public ministry by Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo, but still remains a member of the priesthood. A civil lawsuit filed against De Otero by his two alleged victims is pending.

* Arthur J. O'Brien Jr., convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old Maui boy in 1989. O'Brien remains a priest but was also removed from the public ministry by DiLorenzo.

The Rev. Roberto Batoon, another priest in Hawai'i who was accused of sexual misconduct in the Philippines was "dismissed to the supervision of his home diocese in the Philippines," said Patrick Downes, diocese spokesman.

Now under investigation are accusations of abuse against a Maryknoll priest, Downes said. The alleged misconduct occurred in the 1960s and is being investigated by the Maryknoll Fathers, Downes said.

Still in litigation against the diocese are allegations brought by a minor against two Hawai'i priests, one of whom died 30 years ago and another out of the ministry for about a decade. Another lawsuit still pending was filed against a priest who once worked in Hawai'i for a religious order but was not assigned to the diocese.

Downes acknowledged yesterday that there are other instances of sexual abuse by priests in Hawai'i that are not covered by the study because the priests were not under the jurisdiction of the local diocese.

For instance, Andrew Mannetta, a priest accused in a lawsuit this year of abusing a minor here from 1998 through 2001, was a member of a New York-based order of priests and was not under the supervision or authority of the Honolulu diocese.

Another, Mark Matson, was convicted here in 2000 of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy in Hawai'i Kai. Matson, now serving a 20-year prison term, had been working as a hospital chaplain and was not part of the Hawai'i diocese when the abuse occurred and so was not included in the John Jay study of Hawai'i abuse cases.

Downes said about 530 priests have served in Hawai'i during the 50-year period covered by the John Jay study, meaning that "less than 1 percent" had been found to have abused minors.

SNAP founder and national president Barbara Blaine said in a written statement released from Chicago that the compliance audits were closely controlled by church officials. "Just three of our more than 4,600 members were interviewed" by auditors, Blaine said. "We believe the interviewers only spoke with victims who came forward after June 2002, only to victims who are not involved in litigation, and only to victims whose names they were given by church officials."

Saulibio, Hawai'i's SNAP representative, said yesterday he was not interviewed for the Hawai'i compliance audit.

"It's positive that the church has admitted it has a problem," but he said, "the problem is a lot bigger than the church has admitted."

 
 

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