The Diocese of Baker (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1903, encompasses 18 counties in central and eastern Oregon. It consists of 36 parishes, 26 mission communities, 13 deacons, 29 diocesan priests, and eight elementary schools and serves a population of 37,606 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa, who was installed on January 26, 2000, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 29, 2003, to October 3, 2003.
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 a policy to address healing and reconciliation, entitled Diocesan Statutes for the Protection of Children and Young People, dated October 2002. These statutes provide for receiving allegations of sexual misconduct and notifying civil authorities of such. This document has been sent to every registered household in the Diocese and furnished to clergy, school officials, employees, and volunteers. A diocesan review committee was created in July 2002, which consists of eight members with varied, appropriate backgrounds and vocations; however, the members were unsure as to their roles and protocols. The bishop unofficially chairs the committee and attends all meetings. The victim assistance coordinator is well qualified and serves on the committee. A Recommendation was made to remove her from the committee to alleviate a possible conflict of interest and to formalize the internal rules and procedures of the committee. The bishop has personally met with victims/survivors to bring pastoral care and healing. The Diocese has not entered into any confidentiality agreements since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has established a policy for reporting allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities. Civil authorities strongly supported an initiative wherein the Diocese began efforts to establish liaison, reporting, and coordination procedures with them. A Recommendation was issued suggesting this be accomplished. In October 2003, a code of pastoral conduct was issued. A communications policy was published in February 2003 and is open and transparent as evidenced by review of communications and interviews.
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 December 2002, the Diocese contracted with VIRTUS to provide the basic training for a safe-environment program; however, no training has been initiated. An Instruction was issued to implement said program immediately. The Diocese has completed background investigations for required persons, and the process is closely monitored and continues as personnel change. Screening and evaluation techniques for candidates for ordination are properly utilized including a cooperative relationship with Mt. Angel Seminary. There are no priests presently serving in the Diocese who are subjects of any allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese was issued one Instruction and three Recommendations:
INSTRUCTION—The Diocese shall implement safe environment training.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the victim assistance coordinator not be a member of the review committee, and that the review committee formalize its internal rules and procedures.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese initiate efforts to establish liaison, reporting, and coordination procedures with public/civil authorities in the event allegations of sexual abuse are received in the future.
As of December 1, 2003, all Instructions and Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Baker is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 of 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