Bishop Ryan's February Pastoral Letter
By Bishop of Monterey
February 4, 2004
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As we have been discussing over the past several months, the Diocese of Monterey continues to focus its efforts and resources on protecting children and young people from sexual abuse by anyone who ministers in the name of the Church. As you may be aware, last year I appointed our Chancellor to oversee the Safe Environment Program which has recently been discussed in each deanery in the Diocese. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this program, if you have not done so already, by visiting our website at www.dioceseofmonterey.org. You can also find our Policy Against Sexual Misconduct on our website.
As you may also be aware, since 1985 all school employees and school volunteers throughout the Diocese of Monterey have been fingerprinted. Beginning in 1998 all employees and volunteers working with minors in the parishes were screened under Megan's Law. We also fingerprint all diocesan priests and as of last fall all diocesan employees and volunteers working with youth are being fingerprinted as well. I share this information with you so that you may have a sense of the importance we have placed over the years on screening individuals working with our youth.
During the last week of January, the Administrative Team and I met with parishioners, parents and employees to discuss the sexual misconduct cases pending against the Diocese of Monterey and to outline their potential financial impact on the Diocese. Many of you may recall the legislation which was passed in 2002 which enabled individuals to file lawsuits through December 31, 2003 against entities for acts of childhood sexual misconduct by its agents regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred.
At the end of October, we received an excellent report from the audit team, an outside group commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which performed a comprehensive review of our compliance with the USCCBs' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Please be assured that to my knowledge there is no priest in ministry in the Diocese of Monterey with a credible claim of sexual misconduct against him.
In an effort to keep you informed as to the state of the diocese with regard to the sexual misconduct civil cases that have been filed against the Diocese of Monterey, I will be providing you with periodic updates. Below please find the first of those updates.
As I write this letter, we have seven separate actions pending against the Diocese of Monterey alleging sexual misconduct with four of those cases filed during December 2003. In all of these cases, the Diocese of Monterey intends to follow appropriate legal steps to defend itself while at the same time being sensitive to the victim(s)' needs. I want to let you know that in the weeks and months to come, we may find that other cases have been filed against the Diocese of Monterey. If we learn of additional cases, I will keep you informed.
There are three general categories of cases filed against the Diocese of Monterey involving sexual misconduct. In all of these cases, the victim or victims either have been or will be offered counseling through our Pastoral Response Coordinator. As you will see, almost all of these cases involve allegations dating to the 1950s and 1960s and most of the priests are deceased.
1. Cases involving allegations of sexual misconduct that allegedly occurred after the creation of the Diocese of Monterey on December 18, 1967.
This case involved a priest named Fr. Michael McDonald who died in 1971 (this is not Fr. Martin McDonald who is still living and who does not have any connection whatsoever with this case). The individual alleged a relationship with Fr. McDonald from approximately 1964 to 1966. We made the decision to settle this case because we believed that doing so was in the best interests of the Diocese of Monterey and of the individual making the claim. The Diocese of Monterey paid $760,000 in this case. In addition, our insurance company also contributed to the settlement. The Diocese paid the settlement from a reserve account that has been accumulating income over the past several years. This income came from a real estate investment from which we receive regular distributions. This money was not taken from our current operating budget and will not have an impact on the programs and services that the Diocese provides to the parishes and parishioners. There will be no impact on the parishes from this settlement. In addition, we are working with our excess insurance carrier from the time involved to contribute to this settlement.
Anyone who believes that he or she is victim of childhood sexual abuse by a priest or a religious in the Diocese of Monterey is encouraged to contact Martina O'Sullivan, Pastoral Assistance Coordinator, at 1-800-321-5220.
I want to assure you of our firm commitment to continue our stewardship of the assets, ministries and outreach programs of the Diocese of Monterey. Please pray for all leaders in the Church who work on these sensitive issues, for the healing of all victims of childhood sexual abuse and for all people who work with children and young people.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Sylvester D. Ryan, D.D.
Bishop of Monterey
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