Great Falls-Billings, Montana
The Diocese of Great Falls–Billings (“the Diocese”), which was established as the Diocese of Great Falls in 1904 and was renamed in 1980, encompasses 94,158 square miles in eastern Montana. It consists of 65 parishes and 13 schools, has 69 diocesan priests, four deacons, and serves a population of 57,144 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Anthony Michael Milone, who was installed as bishop in 1988, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of July 28–August 1, 2003.
The information set forth below 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 not established an outreach program, although actions have been taken to prepare one. A Recommendation was issued for the Diocese to expedite the establishment of a program sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the Charter. The bishop, or his designee, has met or offered to meet with victims/survivors of abuse in the Diocese. The victim assistance coordinator is Sr. Kathleen Kane, who also serves as a pastoral assistant. The diocesan review board was established in 2003 and consists of six members, including one priest, one religious, and four respected members of the lay community. The procedures for making a complaint of 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
The Diocese has established effective liaison with local civil authorities, ensuring an open dialogue regarding sexual abuse allegations. The Diocese has a procedure in place to advise victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of 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 consistently taken actions that reflect the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children, notably through use of the diocesan newspaper and diocesan website. A formal policy had been drafted and was scheduled for dissemination in August 2003. A Commendation was issued for the extent of information sharing on issues related to sexual abuse of minors.
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 selected the VIRTUS safe environment program, which was scheduled for implementation in September 2003. A Recommendation was made for the Diocese to take necessary actions to adhere to this implementation schedule. 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 children and young people. The Diocese is conducting background evaluations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. The Diocese has not transferred any priest or deacon who has had a credible allegation of sexual abuse lodged against him to another diocese for ministerial assignment or residency. The bishop, or his delegate, and the major superiors have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a cleric member of a religious institute. The Diocese has cooperated with other churches and religious bodies in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination and a formation program for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Great Falls–Billings was issued two Recommendations and two Commendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese expedite full implementation of an outreach program.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese take suitable action to ensure implementation of a safe environment program on schedule.
COMMENDATION 1—For volume and quality of communications to parishioners through every means available on issues related to sexual abuse of minors.
COMMENDATION 2—For the excellence of a sexual abuse prevention policy that has been in effect since 1995 and updated and improved three times since. A new revision, incorporating all aspects of the Charter, was scheduled for publication in August 2003.
As of December 1, 2003, Recommendation 1 had been addressed; Recommendation 2 had not been fully addressed. The Diocese of Great Falls–Billings is found to be compliant with the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I with the exception of Article 12 (safe environment).
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