El Paso, Texas
The Diocese of El Paso (“the Diocese”), which was established on March 3, 1914, encompasses ten counties in Texas. It consists of 63 parishes and 22 missions, ten deacons, 51 diocesan priests, one seminary, ten schools, and a population of 656,135 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Armando X. Ochoa, who was installed as bishop in 1996, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 8-11, 2003.
The information found herein 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 an outreach program in place since 1993, and its current program was put into effect in May 2003. The bishop, or his representative, has met or offered to meet with victims/survivors of abuse in the Diocese who have reported the abuse since June 2002. A licensed mental health care professional has been employed by the Diocese since 1993 and has been active with the diocesan pastoral response committee. She is now the chancellor and has served as the victim assistance coordinator since January 2003. The diocesan pastoral response committee is composed primarily of lay mental health professionals and has been in existence since 1993. It acts as an investigative body regarding allegations of abuse and makes recommendations to the bishop. The Diocese has recently formed a review board, which comprises highly respected, educated members of the community. This board will advise the bishop on cases of alleged child sexual abuse and related issues, and will make recommendations to him. The early formation of the pastoral review board was made the subject of a Commendation. The procedures for making a complaint of sexual abuse are readily available in printed form. 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
Since at least 1994, the Diocese of El Paso has consistently complied with the statutes of the state of Texas, which require the reporting of sexual abuse of a minor to the appropriate authorities, and all such cases have been reported. A Recommendation was made that the Diocese revisit the issue regarding the reporting of all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest to the authorities, regardless of when the abuse occurred. The diocesan attorney advises an assistant district attorney on certain cases of abuse of minors that occurred in the past. An Instruction was issued directing that all victims/survivors be advised of their right to report allegations of abuse 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 that reflects the diocese’s attempts to advise parishioners concerning matters regarding the sexual abuse of children and young people.
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 developed a series of mandatory
lectures regarding safe environments that have been provided throughout the Diocese to educate all the clergy, teachers, volunteers, and other church persons in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. All of the Diocese’s teachers, employees, and volunteers in the school system have been fingerprinted and have had successful background investigations completed on them. Although the Diocese is in the process of selecting a contractor to conduct the aforementioned investigations on other employees, volunteers, and clergy, no such investigations have been conducted on this group. An Instruction was issued to rectify this immediately. 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 or for purposes of residency to another diocese. The Diocese has not had an opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, or institutions of learning to conduct research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has established screening and evaluation techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination. The Diocese has a systematic, ongoing formation program in keeping with the Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (2001).1
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of El Paso was issued one two Instructions, one Recommendation, and one Commendation.
INSTRUCTION 1—Every victim must be advised of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities.
INSTRUCTION 2—The Diocese must immediately conduct background checks on remaining diocesan and parish personnel and volunteers.
RECOMMENDATION—That the Diocese revisit the issue regarding the reporting of all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a priest to civil authorities, regardless of the age of the victim/survivor at the time of the complaint, and that this reporting be in writing.
COMMENDATION—For creating a pastoral response committee in 1993 to address allegations of sexual abuse by clergy.
As of December 1, 2003, all Instructions and Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of El Paso 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