Las Cruces, New Mexico
The Diocese of Las Cruces (“the Diocese”), which was established in October 1982, encompasses ten counties and 45,000 square miles in southern New Mexico. The Diocese has a total of 28 diocesan priests and 25 deacons; 44 parishes, 45 missions, and four elementary schools serve a Catholic community of 132,000 persons. The Most Reverend Ricardo Ramírez has been bishop since the inception of the Diocese in 1982. A compliance audit was conducted during the period of September 15-17, 2003.
The following describes conditions evident during the week of the audit.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese’s sexual abuse of minors policy, completed and promulgated in June 2003, revises the previous sexual misconduct policy dating from 1993. The policy addresses diocesan response to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. The Diocese has an outreach program that provides for prompt response, counseling, spiritual assistance, and other services agreed to by the victim/survivor and the Diocese. The bishop or his designee has met with victims/survivors. The Diocese also cooperates with relevant social services agencies. Elizabeth Ennis, the chancellor and the victim assistance coordinator, coordinates assistance for pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused by clergy or other church personnel. A nine-member sexual abuse review board, established in 1992, consists of diverse professional expertise, including four social workers, three physicians, and two clergy. The board provides confidential consultative counsel to the bishop and the Diocese. Specific procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse have been posted in the diocesan newspaper and on the diocesan website. There have been no confidentiality agreements entered into since the Diocese was established in 1982.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
Existing policy provides for reporting to and cooperation with civil authorities. Victims/survivors are to be advised of their right to make a report to public authorities. The policy of the Diocese addresses the processes for handling abuse complaints. Standards of ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other church personnel who have regular contact with children have been adopted, clearly articulated, and publicized. The written policy is provided to all diocesan personnel and volunteers, who are required to acknowledge that they have read and understood the policy. The Diocese has an articulated, established communications policy that reflects openness and transparency. In that respect, the bishop has visited parish communities and presided at Masses for those affected by clergy sexual abuse.
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
Safe environment policies and procedures are incorporated into the diocesan sexual abuse of minors prevention policy. The safe environment procedures include education, screening and standards of conduct for parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers who regularly work with youth. There are established procedures for evaluating the background of all diocesan personnel including independent contractors and volunteers. State law enforcement and other community agencies are used to request background inquiries to search for felony and misdemeanor convictions, as well the sexual offender registries. Other private firms are also used to assist in evaluating backgrounds for personnel having regular contact with youth. Screening and evaluation procedures are used in evaluating the fitness of candidates for ordination. No clerics who have sexually abused minors have been transferred from the Diocese either for ministerial or residency purposes since June 2002. The bishop has been in contact with his counterpart major superiors of religious institutes or their representatives, including women religious, in the Diocese, to discuss their respective roles in responding to allegations of clergy sexual abuse. Ongoing formation programs for clergy have been developed and are implemented at twice-a-year meetings and at other less formal settings. The Diocese has a systematic, ongoing formation program in keeping with the Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (2001).1
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Las Cruces was found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.
- USCCB, Basic Plan for the Ongoing Formation of Priests (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2001).
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