The Diocese of Joliet (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1948, encompasses seven counties in northern Illinois. It consists of 122 parishes and 11 missions, 64 elementary and secondary schools, and three colleges and serves a population of 620,363 registered Catholics with 171 deacons and 195 diocesan priests. The Most Reverend Joseph L. Imesch, installed as bishop in 1979, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 15-19, 2003.
The information presented below represents conditions as they were found 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 a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors since 1990; revised in 1993, 1997, and 2003, this policy provides for an outreach program designed to deliver immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. Although the Diocese was willing to offer assistance to all victims/survivors, in a number of instances plaintiffs’ attorneys restricted the Diocese from having any contact whatsoever with their clients. A Recommendation was written that the Diocese extend counseling and spiritual assistance to all victims/survivors of sexual abuse in spite of such constraints. The Diocese does have a victim assistance coordinator, Sr. Mary Frances Seeley, who holds a degree in psychology and civil law. A lay review board had been established in 1990; it was expanded in 1993 to include lay members and currently consists of one priest and nine respected members of the community, including four mental health specialists, four legal specialists, and a former sexual abuse investigator with the state police. A Commendation was written to the Diocese for taking this proactive stance. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed and electronic form. The Diocese has entered into no confidentiality agreements since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has had contact and fully cooperated with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse allegations, and all allegations of sexual abuse of a minors since 1970 have been reported to authorities. Diocesan policy provides for immediate reporting of allegations to the appropriate authorities. The Diocese has a procedure for advising 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 all who have contact with minors, including priests and deacons. The Diocese has a communications policy reflecting the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the 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 has implemented the Protecting God’s Children Program through VIRTUS, for presentation to all adults having regular contact with children; the Diocese continues to research the best training for children. As mentioned above, 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 completing background investigations on all members of the clergy and for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. It also requires any firm conducting business in the Diocese to provide a written guarantee that it has done background checks on its own personnel. This effort was mentioned in the above Commendation to the Diocese. The Diocese has not transferred any priests or deacons who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them to any other diocese for ministerial assignment or residence since June 2002; those dioceses where accused priests are living were notified of the priest’s residency in the diocese. The bishop and the major superiors of religious orders having a presence in the Diocese have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a clerical member of a religious institute. The Diocese has not had an opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. However, since the Diocese is the largest religious group in the territory, it was believed that it should take a leadership role and initiate cooperation, and a Recommendation was written to suggest this action. The Diocese has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination and ongoing formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Joliet was issued two Recommendations and one Commendation.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese initiate liaison with the leaders of other religious denominations, institutions of learning, and other interested organizations to cooperate with them regarding the issue of sexual abuse of minors.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese extend an offer to provide counseling and spiritual assistance to the victims/survivors of sexual abuse regardless of pending litigation or whether a victim/survivor is represented by an attorney.
COMMENDATION—For taking a proactive stance and establishing a review board to review allegations of sexual abuse in 1990 and expanding it in 1993 to include lay members, and for requiring every firm that conducts business in the Diocese, if it has contact with children, to provide a written guarantee that it has conducted background checks on these individuals.
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Joliet 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