The Diocese of Lafayette (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1918, encompasses numerous civil parishes in south-central Louisiana. It consists of 121 Catholic Church parishes and 34 schools, has 149 diocesan priests, 71 deacons, and serves a population of approximately 330,000 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Michael Jarrell, who was named bishop in 2002, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of August 25-29, 2003.
The information set forth 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 established an outreach program. 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 Carmen Falgout, who holds an advanced degree in social work with a concentration in mental health matters. The diocesan review board was established in 2002 and consists of five members, including a judge, a psychologist, and two priests. (The fifth member recently resigned, and a replacement is being sought.) The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed form. There have been no confidentiality agreements involving sexual abuse by members of the clergy 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 prepared, but not yet implemented, a communications policy that reflects the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. It was recommended that the policy be promptly implemented.
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 a safe environment program for adults and children called Wellsprings. A program developed by the Boy Scouts of America is also utilized. 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 began conducting background investigations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors in August 2003. It was recommended that this process be expedited. 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 for purposes of residence. The bishop, or his delegate, and the major superiors 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. The Diocese has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Lafayette was issued two Recommendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese immediately implement a communications policy, which has already been prepared in draft form.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese promptly complete background investigations for personnel in regular contact with minors.
As of December 1, 2003, both Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Lafayette 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