Little Rock, Arkansas
The Diocese of Little Rock (“the Diocese”), originally established in 1843, encompasses the entire state of Arkansas. It consists of 88 parishes, 36 missions, and 35 elementary and secondary schools, and it serves a population of about 103,000 registered Catholics with 75 diocesan priests and 96 permanent deacons. The Most Reverend Peter Sartain, installed as bishop in 2000, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of August 25-29, 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 policy on the prevention of sexual abuse of minors since 1992, and this policy provides for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. The Diocese has a victim assistance coordinator, Carol Siemon, who is a psychologist with 30 years of experience. A lay review board, currently consisting of three members of the clergy, two doctors, two attorneys, a judge, and a psychologist was originally established in 1992 and was modified in 2002. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are not readily available in printed form, and a Recommendation was written indicating that these procedures and the name of the coordinator be published and distributed. 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 little contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse violations, because there have been no incidents of abuse reported since the implementation of the Diocese’s policy statement on the prevention of sexual abuse of minors in 1992. The prevention policy provides for immediate reporting of allegations to the appropriate civil 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. A Recommendation was written suggesting review of the status of a priest involved in a case of abuse that occurred prior to the implementation of the Diocese’s policy statement in 1992, and who resigned from the priesthood years before the adoption of the Charter. The Diocese is in the process of establishing a code of conduct for priests and deacons, based on a model code provided by VIRTUS. 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 selected and will implement a series of safe environment seminars, provided by VIRTUS, for presentation to priests and adults having regular contact with children. This series will include programs for children and youth. As mentioned above, the Diocese is publicizing 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 has identified and is implementing a program that will provide background investigations on all members of the clergy, and adults who have contact with children. Checks on teachers and school employees have been conducted for years as required by state law. 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. The bishop, the abbot of the Benedictine monastery, and the major superiors of orders having a presence in the Diocese have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a cleric 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 and ongoing formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Little Rock was issued two Recommendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese review the status of a priest who resigned from the priesthood prior to the adoption of the Charter, who was involved in a case of abuse that occurred prior to the implementation of the Diocese’s policy statement in 1992.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese publicize the name and telephone number of the victim assistance coordinator and procedures for filing a complaint of sexual abuse.
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Little Rock 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