The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1975, encompasses 18 counties on the panhandle of Florida. It consists of 62 parishes and missions and 11 elementary and secondary schools and serves a population of about 67,400 registered Catholics with 46 diocesan priests and 54 deacons. The Most Reverend John H. Ricard, installed as bishop in 1997, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of August 18-21, 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.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has had a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors since 1994; it was revised in 1998 and is currently under revision again. This policy provides for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. A Recommendation was written requesting prompt finalization and adoption of the new revision. The Diocese has two victim assistance coordinators, Danielle Malone in Pensacola and Dr. James Gagnon in Tallahassee; both are well-qualified psychologists. A lay review board, established in 1998, consists of one priest and five lay members, including a retired judge, an attorney, and a Jewish businessman. A Commendation was written for the Diocese’s initiative in establishing an independent and diverse board long before the adoption of the Charter. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are readily available in printed and electronic form. 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 contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse allegations, has reported all allegations received since June 2002, and has cooperated with them regarding the incidents. The Diocese does not currently have a procedure for advising victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy to civil authorities, but the new revision of the policy does contain this information. This was included in the Recommendation, above. The diocesan code of conduct, established in August 2001, was found to be confusing. An Instruction was written advising the Diocese to review and revise its 2001 code of conduct. 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 had developed, in 1998, a series of safe environment seminars, “sexual abuse workshops,” for presentation to all adults having regular contact with children, including clergy, employees, volunteers, and parents; the Diocese was in the process of developing a program to address the needs of the children in this regard. A Commendation was issued for these efforts. As mentioned above, 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; but the Code was confusing and therefore was the subject of an Instruction. Since 1998, the Diocese has completed background investigations, including mandatory fingerprinting, on all members of the clergy, and on all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. This was also a subject of the Commendation. 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, but two priests were transferred for residency after June 2002, and appropriate notification was made. The bishop 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 clerical member of a religious institute, as necessary. 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 Pensacola-Tallahassee was issued one Instruction, one Recommendation, and two Commendations.
INSTRUCTION—The Diocese will review and revise its 2001 Diocesan Code of Conduct for Priests and Deacons.
RECOMMENDATION—That the bishop promptly finalize and adopt the current revised draft of the new policy.
COMMENDATION 1—The Diocese was commended for taking the initiative to establish an independent and diverse review board long before the Charter was enacted.
COMMENDATION 2—For the Diocese’s proactive measures initiated regarding its safe environment program and background check program.
As of December 1, 2003, the Instruction and the Recommendation had been addressed. The Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee 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