Grand Island, Nebraska
The Diocese of Grand Island (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1917, encompasses 30 counties of central and western Nebraska. It consists of 39 parishes and 38 missions, 76 diocesan priests, 11 schools, and a population of 54,549 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Lawrence J. McNamara was installed as bishop in 1978, and leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of July 21-25, 2003.
The information appearing below represents conditions as found to exist during the week of the audit. Information concerning recommended corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese had established an outreach program well before the evolution of the Charter, and the bishop was commended for efforts in this regard. The bishop has a commitment to be available to victims/survivors and families should the need arise. Due to the vast area served by the Diocese, four victim assistance coordinators have been recently appointed to address the need for pastoral care of persons reporting sexual abuse by clergy. It was recommended that their roles be clarified for them to better communicate with each other and thereby to be more effective. The diocesan review board, established in July 2002, consists of nine members of varied and pertinent vocations. The procedures for reporting an allegation of abuse are readily available in printed form; however, the audit identified a need to update these procedures, for which a Recommendation was issued. An additional Recommendation was made that a checklist, which indicates procedures for filing a complaint, be made available to all clergy, employees, and volunteers. 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 local civil authorities, ensuring the reporting of allegations of sexual abuse and cooperation in any investigations that may follow. The Diocese Procedures Manual contains provisions for victims/survivors to be advised of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by clergy to civil authorities. A notice to this effect is posted in all parishes. The Diocese has a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests and deacons in its policy and procedures manual. The bishop has established a communications policy, which reflects his commitment to be open and transparent on issues pertaining to sexual abuse of minors and 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
A safe environment program has been established by the Diocese and includes plans for training parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers who regularly work with youth. This training had not begun, and it was recommended that it be expedited. 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 young people. These standards are currently being revised. Background investigations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors are being conducted internally. Negotiations are in progress with Catholic Mutual, which uses Choice Point, to have all subsequent background investigations performed by that firm. A Recommendation was issued to expedite these negotiations. The Diocese has not transferred any priest or deacon who has had a credible allegation of sexual abuse lodged against him to another ministerial assignment, or for purposes of residency in another diocese. There are no religious orders within the Diocese. The Diocese has an established an ongoing screening and evaluation program for the selection of candidates for ordination and formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Grand Island was issued seven Recommendations and three Commendations.
COMMENDATION 1—For the bishop’s institution, many years before the adoption of the Charter, of several programs aimed at protecting the children of the Diocese.
COMMENDATION 2—The bishop and members of the clergy were commended for personally contributing eight percent of their income to support all diocesan programs, including those mandated by the Charter.
COMMENDATION 3—For the bishop’s initiative in visiting all parishes in the Diocese to educate parishioners about the Charter.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Dioceses update its policies and procedures to conform to the Charter.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That relevant Charter-related procedures and information are separated from the Diocese Policy Manual for easy reference.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That a checklist indicating the procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse be made available to all clergy, employees, and volunteers, and that those persons receive Instruction on the handling of a complaint.
RECOMMENDATION 4—That procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse be made more readily available in all parishes.
RECOMMENDATION 5—That the four victim assistance coordinators clarify their roles to effectively coordinate their responsibilities.
RECOMMENDATION 6—That safe environment training be expedited.
RECOMMENDATION 7—That contract negotiations with an outside firm to conduct background investigations be expedited.
As of December 1, 2003, the Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Grand Island 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