The Diocese of Rockford (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1908, encompasses 11 counties in northwest Illinois. It consists of 105 parishes, 47 elementary and secondary schools, and one college. It serves a population of 418,891 registered Catholics with 179 diocesan priests and 112 deacons. The Most Reverend Thomas G. Doran, installed as bishop in 1994, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of October 20-24, 2003.
The information presented 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 had a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors since 1987, appropriately revised as necessary. While evidence shows that outreach services have been and will be provided to victims/survivors and their families, this policy does not specifically address an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. A Recommendation was written requesting the Diocese prepare a formalized outreach program. The Diocese has a victim assistance minister, Richard Kunnert, who has extensive experience as a clinical social worker. A review board, the intervention committee, consists of three priests, two religious women, and 11 respected members of the community, including two sexual abuse counselors, two retired judges, a social worker, and a nurse; this board was established in 1987 and has been modified several times. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse were known by diocesan personnel and parishioners, and complaints were accepted in any format. However, a specific printed form was not in use, so a Recommendation suggested that one be developed. 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 minor allegations of sexual abuse and cooperates with the authorities in their investigations when appropriate. The Diocese does 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. The Diocese has established a clear, well-publicized code of conduct for employees and volunteers of the department of education, but not for the priests, deacons, and other adults who have regular contact with children. A Recommendation was written that the Diocese prepare a written code of conduct for clergy and others in a position of trust. 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 has implemented a series of safe environment seminars through VIRTUS for presentation to all clergy and adults having regular contact with children. The Diocese uses the Child Lures program to educate children and is currently researching a replacement program. A Commendation was issued for its training efforts. As mentioned above, the Diocese has publicized standards of conduct for employees and volunteers of its school system but not for the priests, deacons, and other employees of the Diocese. The Diocese has completed background investigations on all members of the clergy and all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors through the services of Staff Management, Inc., a human resources contractor. 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 or residence since June 2002. 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. 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 has an ongoing program for priestly formation.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Rockford was issued two Recommendations and one Commendation.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That the Diocese prepare a written outreach program that addresses appropriate policies and procedures in a formalized manner.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That the Diocese prepare a written code of conduct for clergy and others in a position of trust and distribute the information to the affected individuals.
COMMENDATION—For the Diocese’s initiative in establishing and starting a safe environment program early and ensuring that the training reaches all appropriate persons.
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Rockford is 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