The Diocese of Arlington (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1974, encompasses 21 counties in northern Virginia. It consists of 66 parishes and 37 schools, and 157 diocesan priests and 42 deacons and serve a population of 382,574 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, who was installed as bishop in 1999, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 22-24, 2003.
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 will be found in the last paragraph.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has established an outreach program. While no allegations of sexual abuse have been reported to the Diocese since June 2002, the bishop, or his designee, has met or offered to meet with victims/survivors of abuse reported in the past. The victim assistance coordinator is Catherine Nolan, who is a social worker and child abuse expert. The diocesan review board was established in 2002 and consists of nine members, including two priests and seven respected members of the lay community. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed form. 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
While the lack of any recent allegations of sexual abuse has resulted in very little contact with civil authorities, diocesan policy calls for reporting all allegations received and subsequently cooperating with any resulting investigation. The Diocese has a procedure in place to advise victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities. The Diocese has established a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests and deacons. The Diocese has a communications policy that reflects the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children.
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
Since 1991, the Diocese has had a self-developed safe environment program, consisting of presentations to all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with children. The Diocese was commended for its early recognition of the importance of an educational program dealing with the issue of sexual abuse. A Recommendation, however, was made for the Diocese to update this program and also to arrange for presentations to be made in Spanish as well as English, in order to accommodate the Diocese’s large Hispanic community. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to promptly implement a training program designed for delivery to children and youth. The Diocese has 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. The Diocese is employing a self-reporting method of conducting background evaluations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. Rarely does the Diocese use law enforcement resources, except for background checks of teachers and others required by Virginia laws. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to promptly implement a program to obtain criminal background checks for all personnel who come into regular contact with children. 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. The bishop, or his delegate, and the major superiors have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a clerical 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 established formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Arlington was issued two Instructions, one Recommendation, and one Commendation.
INSTRUCTION 1—The Diocese shall identify and implement a program that will provide education and training for children and youth to make and maintain a safe environment.
INSTRUCTION 2—The Diocese shall promptly implement a program to obtain criminal background checks of clergy, parish employees, and volunteers who come into regular contact with children, utilizing the resources of law enforcement and other community agencies.
RECOMMENDATION—That the Diocese should improve its mandatory safe environment seminars, and that materials should be prepared and presentations given in the Spanish language as well as in English.
COMMENDATION—For the establishment of a self-developed safe environment program in 1991, long before a requirement to do so existed, and for the internal audit system in place since 1991.
As of December 1, 2003, neither of the Instructions nor the Recommendation had been fully addressed. Progress is underway, and safe environment training is scheduled through February 2004. The Diocese of Arlington is compliant with the provisions of the Charter, with the exception of Articles 12 and 13, 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