The Diocese of Alexandria (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1910, encompasses 13 civil parishes in central Louisiana. It consists of 48 Catholic parishes and 11 schools, has 56 diocesan priests and five permanent deacons, and serves a population of 48,050 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Sam G. Jacobs, who was installed as bishop in 1986, was the leader of the Diocese until August 1, 2003. Bishop Jacobs was being transferred to the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux and was expected to depart Alexandria in October 2003. The Most Reverend William B. Friend, Bishop of Shreveport, was named apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Alexandria on October 10, 2003. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of August 18-21, 2003. Based on the lack of progress in implementing the Charter found during the audit, it was determined that a re-audit was required to ensure that steps were taken protect children and young people. As a result of the efforts of Bishop Friend and the diocesan staff, much was accomplished in a six-week period that signifies the diocesan commitment to protect children and young people.
The information set forth below represents conditions as they were found to exist during the week of the audit. Information regarding necessary corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit is found in the last section.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has not established a formal outreach program for pastoral care of victims/survivors. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to develop and adopt a policy setting forth the details of an outreach program. Bishop Jacobs, or his designee, has met or offered to meet with victims/survivors of abuse in the Diocese. The victim assistance coordinator is Mary Girard, who has expertise in family counseling. The diocesan review board was established in 2003 and consists of five members, including one priest and four respected members of the lay community. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are not readily available in printed form. A Recommendation was made for the Diocese to develop and promulgate procedures for those who wish to report an act of abuse. There have been no confidentiality agreements entered into by the Diocese since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
Because of the small number of recent incidents of sexual abuse reported to the Diocese, there has been very little contact with local civil authorities. Cases in the past, however, have been properly reported. While the Diocese has advised victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities, no procedure is in place to ensure that this will occur in every instance. A Recommendation was made for the Diocese to establish a procedure that clearly instructs complaint-takers to advise victims/survivors of their right to report to civil authorities. No explicit policy exists to state that in instances where abuse has been admitted or established, the offending priest or deacon will be permanently removed from ministry. A Recommendation was made for such policy to be developed and promulgated. The Diocese has not established a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests and deacons. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to develop and publicize standards of conduct for clergy and other church personnel who have regular contact with children. The Diocese does not have a communications policy that reflects openness and transparency on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to develop and promulgate a plan committed to a sharing of information with members of the community.
To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Diocese has participated in the research study regarding the “nature and scope” of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
To Protect the Faithful in the Future
The Diocese has not implemented a safe environment program, nor has it publicized standards of conduct for priests and deacons, as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to promptly implement a safe environment program and to develop and publicize standards of conduct. The Diocese was not found to be conducting background evaluations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to implement a program for conducting evaluations for such personnel, including use of law enforcement and community agency resources. The Diocese has not transferred any priest or deacon who has had a credible allegation of sexual abuse lodged against him to another diocese for ministerial assignment, or for purposes of residence. Due to a very small number of religious order priests present in the Diocese, there has been no contact between the bishop, or his delegate, and the major superiors regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a cleric member of a religious institute. The Diocese has not had an opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination and formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Alexandria was issued five Instructions and three Recommendations.
INSTRUCTION 1—The Diocese will develop and promulgate a comprehensive policy that sets forth the conduct of an outreach program.
INSTRUCTION 2—The Diocese will develop and publicize standards of conduct and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other church personnel who have regular contact with children.
INSTRUCTION 3—The Diocese will develop and promulgate a communications policy that states a commitment to openness and transparency in dealing with issues related to the sexual abuse of minors.
INSTRUCTION 4—The Diocese will develop or adopt, and thereafter, implement a safe environment program for training personnel who have regular contact with children.
INSTRUCTION 5—The Diocese will establish procedures for conducting background evaluations, including use of law enforcement and community agency resources, for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with children.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese create and publish procedures to be followed by individuals wishing to file a complaint of sexual abuse.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese develop response and reporting procedures that include Instructions for those receiving a complaint of sexual abuse to advise the victim/survivor of his or her right to make a report to civil authorities.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That the Diocese develop a policy that provides for the permanent removal from active ministry of any member of clergy in instances where sexual abuse of a minor is admitted or established after and appropriate process. Further, policy should be developed that provides for an offer of professional assistance to an offending member of clergy for purposes of his own healing as well as prevention of further abuse.
Results of the Re-Audit
A re-audit of the Diocese of Alexandria was conducted during the period of December 8-12, 2003. The re-audit was directed at the previous areas of non-compliance with the Charter, particularly Articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 12, and 13.
INSTRUCTION 1 (Healing and Outreach)—The Archdiocese published the Diocesan Policy on Sexual Abuse of Minors by Clerics, Employees, or Commissioned Volunteers. This policy includes provisions for pastoral outreach and support. The policy, which is thorough and comprehensive, was sent to all directors and clergy within the diocese and was slated to be published in the December 17, 2003, issue of the diocesan newspaper. Procedures for reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors were to be made public during a press conference on December 20, 2003.
INSTRUCTION 2 (Standards of Conduct)—On December 1, 2003, the Diocese published its Code of Pastoral Conduct for Priests, Deacons, Pastoral Ministers, Administrators, Staff and Volunteers, which was developed by the VIRTUS program. Recipients of the code acknowledge receipt in writing.
INSTRUCTION 3 (Communications Policy)—The Diocese included a communications policy in the new Diocesan Policy Concerning Sexual Abuse of Minors that reflects a commitment to transparency and openness regarding the issue of sexual abuse of minors.
INSTRUCTION 4 (Safe Environment Programs)—The Diocese has entered into a contract for delivery of the Protecting God’s Children program, which will be provided in a mandatory session for all clergy in January 2004, followed by training for others.
INSTRUCTION 5 (Background Evaluations)—The new diocesan sexual abuse prevention policy sets forth provisions for background investigations, and the Diocese has contracted with USIS to conduct background checks. It is anticipated that the backgrounds of the clergy will be completed by the end of December, with the background checks of the other personnel to follow.
RECOMMENDATION 1 (Response and Reporting)—The Diocese published procedures to be followed for the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor and documented them in the diocesan sexual abuse prevention policy.
RECOMMENDATION 2 (Reporting and Cooperation)—The diocesan policy sets forth the requirement for all victims/survivors to be advised to report allegations of sexual abuse to a civil authority; in concert with Louisiana state law, the diocesan policy states that each person serving the Diocese must report any sexual misconduct of a cleric, employee, or commissioned volunteer with a minor.
RECOMMENDATION 3 (Preliminary Investigations and Actions)—The new diocesan policy includes procedures to remove an offending priest or deacon from ministry and to offer professional assisting to the offending priest or deacon for his own well-being and for prevention.
As of December 1, 2003, Instructions 1, 2, and 3 and Recommendations 1, 2, and 3 had been addressed as described above. Instructions 4 and 5 had not been addressed. The Diocese of Alexandria is compliant with the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I, with the exception of Article 12 and Article 13.
The compliance audit measured activity that has occurred since the adoption of the Charter in June 2002 with the exception of certain mandated actions found in Articles 5 and 14. Actions taken by the diocese/eparchy prior to June 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons are not included in this summary report.
Office of Child and Youth Protection
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-5413 | FAX: (202) 541-5410