The Diocese of Laredo (“the Diocese”), which was established on August 9, 2000, encompasses seven counties in south Texas. It consists of 32 parishes and 19 missions, 27 deacons, 26 diocesan priests, and eight schools, and serves a population of 89,550 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend James A. Tamayo was installed as bishop on August 9, 2000, and leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of October 6-10, 2003.
The information set forth herein represents conditions as they were found during the week of the audit.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese of Laredo formalized and implemented its present policy covering the mandates of the Charter on January 1, 2003, in an 89-page document entitled Ethical and Personal Conduct Policies. That document is published on the diocesan website in English and Spanish. Before that, the Diocese followed the policies and procedures of the Diocese of Corpus Christi with regard to issues involving the sexual abuse of minors. There have been no allegations of abuse reported since June 2002. Nonetheless, the bishop is committed to meeting with victims/survivors and their families to promote healing and reconciliation. The victim assistance coordinator is a Marist brother with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. He was a high school teacher for 18 years and was involved in religious education for children and adults for 20 years. He has attended training, is highly qualified, and is extremely motivated to carry out his duties and responsibilities. The diocesan review board consists of six highly qualified and motivated members, including the chairman, who is a psychiatrist. Other members include an attorney, a psychologist, a retired teacher and mother, and the chancellor/victim assistance coordinator. Procedures for reporting allegations have been published in the policy and appear on the diocesan website. 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 victim assistance coordinator and outside legal counsel were aware of the Diocese’s legal obligation to report complaints involving sexual abuse of a minor to civil authorities and to cooperate with the ensuing investigation in those matters and in other cases when the victim is no longer a minor. Procedures for advising victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by clerics to civil authorities are included in the aforementioned policy. The Diocese has an open and transparent communications policy regarding the sexual abuse of children. This is promoted through the Catholic radio station, which broadcasts various announcements relating to sexual abuse policies. The Diocese was commended for its openness and transparency in communications. The Diocese has implemented a clear, precise, and well-publicized code of conduct for priests and deacons as well as for other employees of the Diocese.
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 is reviewing the VIRTUS program as a means of safe environment. Currently, the Diocese utilizes a video that it produced and that is required viewing for all employees and volunteers. Also included in the video are the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons of trust. Cooperation with civil authorities is also addressed therein. Repeated references to safe environment are played on the Diocese-maintained radio station. Thorough background investigations are being conducted in conjunction with effective safe environment programs and procedures. The Diocese has an ongoing formation program to ensure that candidates for ordination are properly screened and evaluated. The Diocese has not transferred any cleric to another diocese for any reason, and there have been no reported allegations of sexual abuse within the Diocese. The bishop has addressed and coordinated his role with the appropriate representatives of the institutes regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a member of a religious institute.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
As of December 1, 2003, the Diocese of Laredo is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I. The Diocese received one Commendation.
COMMENDATION—For the foresight, resourcefulness, and expertise demonstrated in the Diocese’s creation and implementation of an open and transparent communications policy and process.
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