Ogdensburg, New York
The Diocese of Ogdensburg (“the Diocese”), which was established on February 16, 1872, encompasses parts of two counties in northwestern New York. It consists of 114 parishes and 20 missions, 24 schools, 104 priests, 57 deacons, and serves a population of 143,700 registered Catholics. Recently, the Most Reverend Gerald M. Barbarito left to become bishop of the Diocese of Palm Beach; on September 2, 2003, Msgr. Robert Lawler was selected to lead the Diocese as apostolic administrator. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of October 13-17, 2003.
The information contained herein represents conditions as they were found to exist during the week of the audit. Information regarding necessary corrective actions to be taken by the Diocese after the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has established an outreach program. The bishop and his representatives traveled throughout the Diocese to meet with victims/survivors and/or their families after June 2002 to provide pastoral care and healing. The victim assistance coordinator is a mental health therapist for Catholic Charities and is well versed in her duties. On June 20, 2002, a diocesan review board was created and consists of ten members with varied backgrounds and vocations. Fr. Terry R. LaValley chairs the board. Well-publicized procedures are in place for reporting allegation of sexual abuse. No confidentiality agreements have been entered into since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The diocesan outreach policy mandates cooperation with civil authorities in reporting cases where the victim is no longer a minor. A Recommendation was made that the Diocese establish liaison, reporting, and coordinating procedures with civil authorities to report allegations and to cooperate with any ensuing investigation. The Diocese’s code of pastoral conduct was issued on October 14, 2003. The Diocese recently established a communications policy, which reflects the Diocese’s commitment to transparency and openness.
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 contracted with VIRTUS to provide safe environment training. The code of conduct for clergy, as well as employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people has been well-publicized. The Diocese has not implemented a program to conduct background checks and is exploring companies to conduct these checks. An Instruction was issued directing the Diocese immediately to commence conducting background checks for all required persons. Screening and evaluation techniques for candidates for ordination are in place and properly used, and an ongoing formation program exists. The Diocese has complied with the transfer of clergy requirements, and the two priests who were removed by decree have been placed in residence in another state with proper notification to the bishop of that diocese. One priest has moved to another diocese for residence, and the bishop of that diocese has been so notified. There are no major superiors in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Ogdensburg was issued one Instruction and one Recommendation.
INSTRUCTION—The Diocese will immediately commence background checks for all required persons.
RECOMMENDATION—That efforts be initiated to establish liaison with civil authorities regarding reporting allegations of sexual abuse and cooperation in the ensuing investigations.
As of December 1, 2003, the Instruction and Recommendation had been addressed. The Diocese of Ogdensburg 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