The Diocese of Bridgeport (“the Diocese”), established in 1953, encompasses Fairfield County in Connecticut. It consists of 87 parishes, two missions, and 33 elementary and five secondary schools, and it serves a population of about 363,000 registered Catholics with 340 priests and 87 permanent deacons. The Most Reverend William E. Lori, who was installed as bishop in 2001, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of June 23-27, 2003.
The information presented 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 had a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors since 1990; most recently revised in 2002, this policy provides for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. A Commendation was issued for the bishop and his staff’s exemplary outreach program and communication initiatives. The Diocese has a victim assistance coordinator, Linda Michaod, who has a degree in social work and 22 years of related experience. A Recommendation was written suggesting that the coordinator allocate appropriate time to familiarize herself with the background and procedures of her new assignment. A lay review board was established in 2002, consisting of one priest and ten respected members of the community, including a psychologist, a psychiatrist, and a nurse. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed and electronic form. However, a Recommendation was written suggesting that a checklist be developed for working with victims/survivors and alleged offenders, so that all Charter and policy requirements are followed. The Diocese has entered into no confidentiality agreements since June 2002, unless requested by the victim/survivor.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has had contact with local civil authorities regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors, and it has cooperated with the authorities in their investigations. The Diocese has a procedure for advising victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual 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 reflecting the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children, which was commended as described above.
To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Diocese was participating in the research study regarding the “nature and scope” of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, but had not finished the review at the time of the audit. A Recommendation was written regarding this issue.
To Protect the Faithful in the Future
The Diocese has developed a series of safe environment seminars for presentation to adults having regular contact with children and for the children themselves. As mentioned above, 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 has a policy that requires background investigations on all members of the clergy, employees, and volunteers, but it does not include contractors that work for the diocese. A Recommendation was written to require that contractors be included in the background investigation procedure. The Diocese has not transferred any priests or deacons who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them to any other diocese for ministerial assignment or residence during the time period covered by this report. However, five priests who have had allegations lodged against them are living in other dioceses, and the bishop has appropriately and confidentially notified the bishops of those dioceses of their backgrounds. The bishop and the major superiors of religious orders having a presence in the Diocese 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 has established ongoing formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Bridgeport was issued three Recommendations and three Commendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese complete the research study on the “nature and scope” of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese revise its background check policy to include the hundreds of contract employees working for the Diocese.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That the Diocese develop a checklist of procedures to be used when processing victims’ complaints and dealing with accused clergy. The victim assistance coordinator should allocate appropriate time to familiarize herself with her new assignment.
COMMENDATION 1—For instituting administrative procedures to ensure that parishes are participating in safe environment programs.
COMMENDATION 2—For developing a safe environment program that exceeds the requirements of the Charter.
COMMENDATION 3—For the bishop’s and Diocese’s exemplary outreach program and communications
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Bridgeport 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