Lake Charles, Louisiana
The Diocese of Lake Charles (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1980, encompasses five civil parishes in southwest Louisiana. It consists of 38 Catholic parishes and seven schools, has 51 diocesan priests, 33 deacons, and serves a population of approximately 100,000 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, who was installed as bishop in 2001, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of August 11-15, 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 Fr. Whitney Miller, who also functions as rector of St. Louis Catholic High School. The diocesan review board was established in 2002 and consists of six members, including two priests and four prominent 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 was in the process of creating a code of conduct for priests and deacons, but this had not been completed. It was recommended that the code be promptly established and publicized. The Diocese has a communications policy reflecting the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. The bishop was commended for his actions in carrying out this policy.
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 was in the process of developing a safe environment program but had not yet implemented one. It was recommended that a program be promptly developed and implemented. The Diocese had no publicized standards of conduct for priests and deacons, or for diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. As noted above, a Recommendation was made that standards of conduct be promptly developed and publicized. With the exception of school personnel, background investigations are not being conducted for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. An Instruction was issued to promptly conduct such background investigations. 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 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 and ongoing formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Lake Charles was issued one Instruction, two Recommendations, and one Commendation.
INSTRUCTION—The Diocese will implement background checks for all personnel having regular contact with children.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese establish and publish standards of conduct and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other personnel having regular contact with children.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese implement a safe environment program for all persons who have regular contact with youth.
COMMENDATION—For actions taken in furtherance of a communications policy reflecting openness and transparency in matters of sexual abuse of minors.
As of December 1, 2003, Instruction 1 and Recommendation 1 had been addressed. Recommendation 2 had not been addressed. The Diocese of Lake Charles is 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