The Diocese of Richmond (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1820, encompasses all of the southern portion of Virginia, consists of 143 parishes and 31 schools, has 156 diocesan priests and 33 deacons, and serves a population of 213,528 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Walter J. Sullivan, who was installed as bishop in 1974, was scheduled to retire in September 2003. His Eminence, Cardinal William Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, was to assume responsibilities as apostolic administrator pending the installation of a new bishop. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period August 11-15, 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 who reported the abuse after June 2002. The victim assistance coordinator is Fr. Pasquale Apuzzo, who also functions as the diocesan director of communications and secretary to the bishop. The diocesan review board was established in 2002 and consists of eight members, including one priest, one employee of the Diocese, and six respected members of the lay 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 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. The Diocese was commended for the practice of issuing press releases and holding press conferences for each case of sexual misconduct by a member of clergy.
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 not implemented a safe environment program. An Instruction was issued for the Diocese to promptly establish and implement a program for training parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers who have regular contact with children. 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 evaluations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. The Diocese was commended for the thoroughness of this practice and for updating evaluations every four years. 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 formation programs for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Richmond was issued one Instruction and three Commendations.
INSTRUCTION—The Diocese will establish and implement a safe environment program for training parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers who have regular contact with children and youth.
COMMENDATION 1—For an exceptional mandatory screening policy that provides for conducting background checks on all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with children and that is updated for all every four years.
COMMENDATION 2—For an exceptional communications policy that is evidenced by the practice of issuing a press release and holding a press conference concerning each incident of sexual abuse by a member of the clergy.
COMMENDATION 3—For the establishment of a vocation advisory board, consisting of four members of the clergy and six lay Catholics with professional skills, to advise the bishop on the type of priest best suited for the Diocese of Richmond and the best way to communicate relevant information to parish priests, as well as how they might, in turn, more effectively communicate with their parishioners.
As of December 1, 2003, the Instruction had not been addressed. The Diocese of Richmond is compliant with provisions of the Charter with the exception of Article 12, 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