The Diocese of Allentown (“the Diocese”), established in January 1961, encompasses five counties in eastern Pennsylvania and has a Catholic population of more than 270,000. The Diocese has 153 parishes, 271 diocesan priests, 98 deacons, 52 elementary schools, and nine high schools. Bishop Edward P. Cullen has led the Diocese since December 1997. A compliance audit was conducted from September 29–October 3, 2003.
The following describes conditions evident during the week of the audit. Information on corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has an established outreach program with specific policies and procedures, which include offers of and provision for assistance and counseling for victims/survivors, their families, and the accused. The bishop, or his designee, has offered to meet with victims/survivors and their families in response to allegations reported since June 2002. The bishop was commended for expanding the diocesan Healing of the Body of Christ program to address concerns of clergy as well as parishioners regarding repercussions from allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. Barbara Murphy, a licensed social worker and director of Catholic Charities, is the victim assistance coordinator. The Diocese has had a policy for responding to sexual abuse allegations since April 1993, and the current version of that policy was disseminated throughout the Diocese during August and September 2003. A seven-member diocesan review board, comprising diverse professionals and lay persons, was established in December 2002 and serves as a consultative body to the bishop. Review board guidance and procedures are documented. Documented procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse have been widely disseminated throughout the Diocese in several formats in the media and on the diocesan website. There have been no confidentiality agreements entered into since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has reported all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by clergy to civil authorities since June 2002 and has cooperated with those authorities in their investigations. Further, in May 2002, the Diocese provided local district attorneys the opportunity to review the files of all clergy accused of sexual abuse of minors in previous years. Diocesan policy specifically provides that victims/survivors will be advised of their right to make a report to governmental authorities. Codes of conduct exist for coaches, athletes, and youth ministry leaders. The Diocese has published a communications policy that reflects a commitment to openness and transparency.
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
In May 2002, the Diocese decided on a specific safe environment program; however, a negotiated contract was not signed until April 2003. The first round of training of clergy was scheduled for October 2003, and full implementation is envisioned for spring 2004. Another safe environment program addressing the needs of children was scheduled for the first semester of the 2003-2004 school year. Background evaluations, including the use of law enforcement agencies, are conducted for clergy, employees, and volunteers. A Recommendation was issued to include contractors and vendors in background evaluations. The Diocese employs screening and evaluation techniques in evaluating the fitness of candidates for ordination. No clergy who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor has ever been transferred for ministerial purposes, although in three instances clergy have moved outside the Diocese for residency purposes. In those three cases, the bishops of the dioceses have been advised in writing of the presence and status of those individuals by the Diocese. The bishop of Allentown has met with his counterpart major superiors of religious orders located within the Diocese, and he has discussed the provisions and directives of the Charter with them. The bishop also participates in meetings of judicatory leaders in the area and has delivered a recent presentation on sexual abuse allegation issues of the Church to that body. Systematic ongoing formation programs for clergy are held annually with attendance mandatory.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Allentown was issued two Recommendations and one Commendation.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese establish standards of conduct for clergy, employees, and all volunteers who have regular contact with children.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese expand the background evaluation program to include investigation of vendors and independent contractors.
COMMENDATION—For expanding the Healing the Body of Christ program to address concerns of clergy as well as parishioners regarding repercussions from the allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
As of December 1, 2003, the Diocese of Allentown has completed the actions identified in the Recommendations. The Diocese of Allentown is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.
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