The Diocese of Owensboro (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1937, encompasses 32 counties in western Kentucky, consists of 79 parishes and 21 schools, has 82 diocesan priests, and serves a population of 52,047 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend John J. McRaith, who was installed as bishop in 1982, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of October 6-10, 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.
To 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 who reported the abuse after June 2002. The victim assistance coordinator is Rita Heinz, who also works for Catholic Charities. The diocesan review board was established in 2002 and consists of 12 members, including clergy and respected members of the lay community. A Commendation was issued for the active role played by the board in overseeing implementation of policies and procedures required by the Charter. 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 established effective liaison with local civil authorities, ensuring that an open dialogue regarding sexual abuse allegations will occur. 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. 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.
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 developed and implemented a safe environment program, consisting of mandatory attendance at presentations by all personnel having regular contact with children. A Commendation was issued for the excellence of this in-house effort. The Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for priests and deacons, as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other 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 personnel who have regular 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. It was recommended, however, that the Diocese develop and implement a more comprehensive background investigation process for this purpose. The Diocese has an ongoing formation program for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Owensboro was issued one Recommendation and two Commendations.
RECOMMENDATION—That a more comprehensive background investigation process be developed and implemented for candidates for ordination.
COMMENDATION 1—For the in-house development and implementation of an excellent safe environment program.
COMMENDATION 2—For the significant role played by the review board with respect to the oversight of implementation of policies and procedures required by the Charter.
As of December 1, 2003, the Recommendation had been addressed. The Diocese of Owensboro 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