New Ulm, Minnesota
The Diocese of New Ulm, which was established in 1957, encompasses 15 counties in southwestern Minnesota. It consists of 82 parishes and 20 schools, has 44 active diocesan priests and three deacons, and serves a population of approximately 70,000 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, who was installed as bishop in 2001, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of September 15-19, 2003.
The information set forth below represents conditions as they were found to exist 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.
FindingsTo 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. No cases of abuse have been reported since June 2002. The victim assistance coordinator is Christopher Loetscher, who also functions as director of the diocesan office of social concerns and family life. The Diocese was commended for designating four members of the congregation to assist Loetscher and for arranging training. The diocesan review board was originally established in 1993 and was reconstituted in 2002. It consists of seven members, including two priests and five respected members of the 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 had very few reported cases of abuse and, therefore, has not had significant contact with local civil authorities. It was recommended that contact be established to ensure an open dialogue regarding future allegations of sexual abuse. 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. A Commendation was issued for having had such a policy since 1990. The Diocese has established a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests and deacons. The Diocese has a communications policy that reflects the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. The Diocese was commended for its pastoral response to parishes directly affected by 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
The Diocese has implemented a safe environment program consisting of workshops and videotape presentations to adults having regular contact with children. It was recommended that the delivery of programs designed for children be better coordinated and that a uniform program be adopted. The Diocese has publicized 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 is conducting background investigations for all diocesan and parish clergy and employees who have regular contact with minors. It was recommended that such checks be promptly instituted for volunteers having contact with minors. 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 bishop, or his delegate, and the major superiors 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 CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of New Ulm was issued three Recommendations and three Commendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese establish contact with local civil authorities for the purpose of stating its determination to comply with the reporting requirements of the Charter and civil law with respect to allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese expedite background checks for volunteers working with minors.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That the Diocese adopt a uniform safe environment program for delivery to children in its schools and education programs.
COMMENDATION 1—For an excellent sexual abuse prevention policy having been in place since 1990.
COMMENDATION 2—For the appointment and training of four assistant victim assistance coordinators.
COMMENDATION 3—For the quality of pastoral outreach to parishes directly affected by sexual abuse of minors.
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of New Ulm 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