Phoenix Byzantine Eparchy of
Van Nuys of the Ruthenians (Arizona)
The Phoenix Byzantine Eparchy of Van Nuys (“the Eparchy”) was established in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1981 and encompasses the states of Arizona, Alaska, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The Eparchy consists of 19 parishes and serves a population of 3,071 registered Byzantine Catholics with 18 eparchy priests and three deacons. The Most Reverend William C. Skurla, installed as bishop in 2002, leads the Eparchy. A compliance audit of the Eparchy was conducted during the period of September 8-12, 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 Eparchy subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Eparchy has had a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors since 2002, but this policy does not provide for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. An Instruction was written requiring the development of an outreach program with provisions for cooperation with social services agencies and other churches. The Eparchy does have a victim rights advocate, Helen (Jan) Vogel; however, she has not received any training or guidance. A Recommendation was written requesting that the advocate receive appropriate training. A lay review board was established in 2003, consisting of two priests and five respected members of the community, including a woman religious and two nurses. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are documented; however, this procedure is not available in a format suitable for use in taking a complaint, and it has not been periodically publicized. A Recommendation was written requiring that the complaint filing process be readily available in printed form and this process be periodically announced. The Eparchy has entered into no confidentiality agreements since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Eparchy has had no contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse allegations, because no allegations have been reported to the Eparchy since June 2002. Its policy, however, provides for immediate reporting of allegations to the appropriate authorities in whatever state the alleged incident occurred. The Eparchy does not have a procedure for advising victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities. It was recommended that such a procedure be incorporated into the appropriate document. The Eparchy has established a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests, deacons and employees; however, this information has not been disseminated to volunteers, and the code has not been publicized. A Recommendation was written that the code of conduct be made available to all personnel who have regular contact with children and that the code be publicized. The Eparchy does not have a communications policy that reflects the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. A Recommendation was written that the Eparchy develop a formal communications policy and implement the policy to demonstrate transparency and openness.
To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Eparchy 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 Eparchy has provided, at two annual meetings, some training to clergy and lay employees that approaches safe environment training, but it does not have a written or documented training program that can be implemented. A recently hired coordinator has been assigned this responsibility. An Instruction was written requiring the development and implementation of a documented safe environment program. As mentioned above, the Eparchy does not have publicized standards of conduct for priests and deacons, as well as eparchial employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people; a Recommendation was written. The Eparchy has completed background investigations on all members of the clergy and for all eparchial and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. The Eparchy has not transferred any priests or deacons who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them to any other eparchy for ministerial assignment or residence since June 2002. The bishop and the one major superior of an order having a presence in the Eparchy have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a cleric member of a religious institute. The Eparchy 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 Eparchy has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination and formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Eparchy of Phoenix Byzantine Eparchy of Van Nuys was issued three Instructions and four Recommendations.
INSTRUCTION 1—The Eparchy will develop an outreach program with provisions for cooperation with social service agencies and other churches throughout the territory.
INSTRUCTION 2—The Eparchy will develop a formal communications policy and implement that policy to demonstrate transparency and openness.
INSTRUCTION 3—The Eparchy will develop and implement a safe environment program.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Eparchy ensure that the victim rights advocate receives appropriate training.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Eparchy develop a printed form that details the procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse of a minor, and that the Eparchy make it the subject of periodic public announcements.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That the Eparchy revise the Procedures for Filing a Complaint of Sexual Abuse to include Instructions that the victim/survivor has a right to report the allegations of sexual abuse to the civil authorities.
RECOMMENDATION 4—That the Eparchy publish the standards of behavior and boundaries for clergy and other church personnel and disseminate these standards to all church personnel who have contact with children.
As of December 1, 2003, all Instructions and Recommendations had been addressed. The Phoenix Byzantine Eparchy of Van Nuys 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