Metuchen, New Jersey
The Diocese of Metuchen (“the Diocese”), which was established in November 1981, encompasses Middlesex, Hunterdon, Somerset, and Warren counties in New Jersey and serves a Catholic population of 548,000 parishioners. It is composed of 108 parishes and is served by 151 diocesan priests and 141 permanent deacons. There are 42 elementary schools and six high schools. The Diocese is led by the Most Reverend Paul G. Bootkoski, who was installed as Bishop in March 2002. A compliance audit was conducted during the period of October 20-24, 2003.
The following describes conditions evident during the week of the audit. Any information on corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has established policy and outreach responsive to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. The bishop was commended for his healing and outreach leadership with victims/survivors and their families as well as for supporting settlements with victims/survivors. Sr. Elizabeth O’Hara, director of Disaster Relief Services, Catholic Charities, who was designated to coordinate pastoral care for victims/survivors, has extensive experience caring for people in distress. The review board is composed of highly qualified professionals, including a retired judge, a police executive, health care professionals, survivors of abuse, and a member of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Procedures for filing a complaint are prominently posted. No confidentiality agreement has been entered into since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
Each allegation of sexual abuse of minors has been promptly reported in accord with a formalized agreement with each prosecutor in the Diocese. Victims/survivors are advised of their right to report to public authorities. The Diocese was instructed to create and publish a code of conduct establishing standards for ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. It was also recommended that such protocols be shared with clergy of religious orders in the Diocese. The bishop and his staff have demonstrated consistent commitment to a policy of openness and transparency in diocesan communications activity. The public media has recognized the Diocese’s efforts in this regard.
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 embarked on safe environment training based on the VIRTUS program. It was recommended that the bishop extend the safe environment training and protocols for clergy to include religious clergy in clerical institutions represented within the Diocese, unless training was provided to them in another forum. Progress is being made toward conducting background investigations of adults who have regular contact with children and young people. A Recommendation was issued to have background evaluations completed on all clergy and applicable personnel by November 2003. No cleric against whom a credible allegation of sexual abuse has been lodged has been transferred outside the Diocese either for ministerial or residency purposes, although one religious priest relocated to another country before receipt of an allegation against him. The bishop provided the appropriate, confidential information to the man’s major superior.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Metuchen was issued one Instruction, three Recommendations, and one Commendation.
INSTRUCTION—The Diocese will create and publish a code of conduct establishing standards for ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and for any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the bishop extend the safe environment training and standards of conduct to all its clergy and to all religious priests within the Diocese if they have not been provided with it in another forum.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese complete background evaluations on all clergy and applicable personnel.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That diocesan representatives periodically meet to develop a cooperative relationship with religious orders and the leaders of other religious denominations and institutions of learning, in order to collaborate on the issue of sexual abuse of minors in society.
COMMENDATION—For the bishop’s leadership in supporting settlement of abuse claims, for model reporting procedures and relationships with county prosecutors in the Diocese, for the effective use of an experienced investigator in several key aspects of diocesan response to allegations of sexual abuse, and for a consistently transparent communications policy that routinely invites reports of incidents of clerical sexual abuse.
As of December 1, 2003, the Instruction and Recommendation 3 had been addressed. The Diocese of Metuchen has completed more than 80% of the background investigations and safe environment training. The Diocese of Metuchen is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I, but has not yet completed training and background evaluations prescribed in Article 3.
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