The Diocese of Brownsville (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1965, encompasses four counties in southern Texas. It consists of 65 parishes and 44 missions, 58 diocesan priests, 67 deacons, one seminary, and 12 schools and serves a population of 799,225 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Raymundo Pena was installed as bishop in 1995 and leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of July 21-25, 2003.
The information set forth herein represents conditions as they were found to exist during the week of the audit. Information regarding suggested corrective action taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
An outreach program was established in 1996 by the Diocese and has been enhanced and refined since that time. The Diocese’s Policies, Procedures and Guidelines for Ethical and Responsible Conduct in Ministry was published in spring 2003. The bishop, or his designee, has met or offered to meet with victims/survivors of abuse in the Diocese that have reported the abuse since 2002. The victim assistance coordinator is Walter Lukaszek, the director of Catholic Services and a contract specialist with the University of Texas, Pan-American. A bishop’s advisory committee was originally formed in 1996 to assist the bishop in resolving claims of child abuse. That committee was re-formed in June 2002 as the diocesan review board, consisting of five members, both clerical and lay, with varied, applicable backgrounds. The procedures for making an allegation of sexual abuse are readily available in the aforementioned policy. 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 to ensure reporting and cooperation, with the victim assistance coordinator being the designated reporter of allegations. The latter is also the designated person to advise victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse to civil authorities. The Diocese has established and published a code of conduct for ministerial behavior. A communications policy is in effect reflecting the bishop’s commitment to openness and transparency on issues concerning 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 is subscribing to the VIRTUS program Protecting God’s Children to train its personnel in safe environments. Standards of conduct for clergy, employees, volunteers, and other persons in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people are published. Background checks are conducted on all persons except diocesan priests; a Recommendation was made to implement background evaluations including criminal checks on all assigned priests. Appropriate screening and evaluation of candidates for ordination is being conducted. 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. The bishop, or his delegate, coordinates matters concerning issues of sexual abuse of children with members of the various religious orders serving in the Diocese, and he maintains contact with the major superiors of those orders. The opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of children has not presented itself.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Brownsville was issued one Recommendation.
RECOMMENDATION—That background evaluations for priests, including criminal checks, be implemented.
As of December 1, 2003, the Recommendation had been addressed. The Diocese of Brownsville 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