The Diocese of Galveston-Houston (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1847, encompasses 10 counties in southeast Texas. It consists of 150 parishes and eight missions, 250 deacons, 197 diocesan priests, one seminary, one college/university, and 45 schools and serves a population of 1,006,425 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, who was installed as bishop in 1985, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 15-19, 2003.
The information set forth herein represents conditions as they were found during the week of the audit.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese established an outreach program that has been in place since the early 1990s. It has been revised to conform to the dictates of the Charter. The bishop, or his designee, has met or offered to meet with victims/survivors of abuse in the Diocese who reported the abuse after June 2002. The victim assistance coordinator is Sr. Maureen O’Connell, who is well qualified, having a law enforcement and therapist background. In July 2002, the bishop appointed an 11-member diocesan review board, consisting of qualified clergy and lay personnel. A Commendation was issued for the bishop’s recognition of the need for and development of an effective outreach program. The procedures for making a complaint of sexual abuse are readily available in a printed form and within the published outreach program. 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 developed effective procedures to ensure that all matters of sexual abuse are reported to civil authorities and that cooperation is extended in investigations that may follow. A procedure is in place to advise 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 an effective communications policy, which includes radio, newspaper, and bulletins, all of which reflect an open and transparent attitude regarding the issue of 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 using the VIRTUS program to train its personnel in the aspects of safe environment. 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, have been publicized. Law enforcement background checks have been conducted on all persons in the Diocese having contact with children, except for clergy. Checks on clergy will be completed in early 2004. 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 in another diocese. The bishop and individual provincials have discussed and coordinated their respective roles concerning issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against cleric members of religious institutes and/or orders. The Diocese has not had the opportunity to cooperate with other churches, faiths, or institutions of learning to conduct research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has established an effective screening and evaluation program for 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 the audit, the Diocese of Galveston-Houston was found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I. The Diocese was issued one Commendation.
COMMENDATION—For the Diocese’s proactive program over the past decade to address the issues of the prevention of sexual abuse of children and young people.
- USCCB, Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2001).
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