The Diocese of Austin (“the Diocese”), which was established in November 1947, encompasses 25 counties of central Texas. It consists of 101 parishes and 26 missions, 136 diocesan priests, 173 deacons, one college/university, and 17 schools and serves a population of 401,541 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, who was installed as bishop on January 2, 2001, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of August 18-22, 2003.
The information found herein represents conditions as they were found to exist during the week of the audit. Information regarding recommended corrective action taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
In August 2001, the Diocese established an outreach program that was revised on May 1, 2003. The bishop has met with the one victim/survivor of abuse in the Diocese who reported the abuse after June 2002. The victim assistance coordinator is Patricia Stankus, who is well qualified for the task. The ethics and integrity in ministry review board has been established and consists of seven members, including two clergy, two psychologists, a human resources director, and an executive. The procedures for making a complaint of sexual abuse are readily available in written form and are periodically published in the diocesan newspaper and in parish bulletins. 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
The Diocese has established effective liaison with civil authorities, ensuring that an open dialogue regarding sexual abuse allegations will occur. A procedure is in place to advise victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities, and it appears on the diocesan website. The Diocese has established a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests and deacons. A communications policy is in effect, which 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
The Diocese has selected and implemented the Protecting God’s Children workshop developed by Praesidium, Inc. The Diocese is currently working with Praesidium to develop an educational program to be presented to all children in the Diocese. A Recommendation was made that the Diocese works toward expediting the completion and implementation of this program. 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 conducts background evaluations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors, using the resources of state law enforcement. These evaluations are performed every three years for those persons remaining in positions of trust, a practice for which the Diocese was commended. The Diocese has not transferred any priest or deacon who has had a credible allegation of sexual abuse made against him to another ministerial assignment. One such priest, who is retired, has taken up residency in another diocese, and that bishop has been appropriately advised. The bishop of Austin met with all religious priests residing or working in the Diocese on May 9, 2003, and discussed many issues, including that of sexual abuse. The bishop has responded positively to a request from Episcopal Church representatives regarding a safe environment program and has worked with the Boy Scouts of America to foster a cooperative spirit in utilizing the safe environment program. The Diocese has extensive, layered procedures in place concerning the formation process for selecting candidates for ordination, as well as a program in keeping with the Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (2001).1
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese was issued one Commendation and one Recommendation:
RECOMMENDATION—That the Diocese continue to work closely with Praesidium, Inc., to expedite and implement the program to educate children through the safe environment program.
COMMENDATION—For the Diocese’s policy requiring that background evaluations be conducted every three years for persons who remain in positions of trust and have regular contact with minors.
As of December 1, 2003, the Recommendation had been addressed. The Diocese of Austin is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.
- USCCB, Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2001).
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