The Diocese of Harrisburg (“the Diocese”), established in 1868, encompasses 15 counties in central Pennsylvania. The Diocese consists of 89 parishes, seven missions, 39 elementary schools, and seven high schools, and it serves a Catholic community of 248,000. There are 112 active diocesan priests and 47 permanent deacons. The Most Reverend Nicholas C. Dattilo, installed as bishop in January 1990, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 15-19, 2003.
The following describes conditions evident during the week of the audit. Any information on correction actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
In 1990 the bishop established a policy for responding to allegations of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, with updated policies having been issued in 1992 and 1997. A draft revised policy (Youth Protection Program) to fully comply with the Charter was finalized in August 2003. An outreach program was established in 1992. The bishop and/or his representative has met or offered to meet with any victims/survivors desiring meetings. The Diocese has a response team, which promptly responds to and coordinates all efforts on behalf of the victim/survivor and the accused priest or deacon. Thomas Thorpe, victim assistance coordinator, holds degrees in psychology and public administration and has experience in business, human services, and counseling. The Diocese has a diverse ten-member review board comprising a pastor, two psychologists, an attorney, a former state trooper, a psychiatrist, a woman religious, a former federal investigator, and a teacher. Procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse are readily available in printed form and on the diocesan website. The Diocese was commended for the early establishment of an outreach program, for the development of an independent review board in 1994, and for the development of the youth protection program in 1994. The Diocese has not entered into any confidentiality agreements with any victim/ survivor 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 cooperation on 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. Standards of ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other church personnel who have regular contact with children have been clearly articulated and promulgated. The bishop has an established communications policy that reflects a commitment to transparency and openness. The bishop and his delegates have visited and supported parish communities directly affected by ministerial misconduct.
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 a safe environment program for educators and clergy. The program for parents, employees, and volunteers is in preparation and will be implemented in 2004. A safe environment policy for minors has been drafted and partially implemented and will be fully implemented in 2004. A Recommendation was issued to expedite implementation of the safe environment program. This 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 has established background evaluation procedures for all school personnel, including clergy, school volunteers, and educators, and for all Catholic Charities personnel. Policy and procedures for other non-school personnel have not yet been finalized. A Recommendation directed that implementation of background evaluations be expedited. The Diocese employs comprehensive screening and evaluation protocols for evaluating fitness of candidates for ordination. 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 ministry or residence. Since 1997, letters have been sent to all nine religious communities represented in the Diocese explaining policy and procedures for responding to allegations of clergy sexual misconduct. Several religious-order priests also attended the diocesan “Clergy Day” at which policy was discussed. The Diocese has met with and cooperated with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning to examine issues and responses related to sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese utilizes several venues for its ongoing clergy formation programs.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Harrisburg was issued two Recommendations and one Commendation.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese take necessary steps to provide safe environment training of employees, volunteers, and clergy and a safe environment program for minors.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese take necessary steps to comply with policy regarding background evaluations of employees, volunteers, and clergy.
COMMENDATION—For the establishment, in 1994, of an outreach program, an independent review board, and a youth protection program.
As of December 1, 2003, both Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Harrisburg is found to be compliant with 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