The Diocese of Steubenville (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1944, encompasses 13 counties in southeast Ohio and serves a Catholic community of approximately 40,000 parishioners. There are 52 diocesan priests, six permanent deacons, 72 parishes, 14 elementary schools, and three high schools. The Most Reverend R. Daniel Conlon was installed as bishop of Steubenville in August 2002. A compliance audit was conducted during the period of October 6-9, 2003.
The following describes conditions evident during the week of the audit. Any information on 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 a documented outreach program for victims/survivors and families of victims/survivors to provide a prompt response to allegations of sexual abuse of a minor. The outreach program has provisions for counseling, spiritual assistance, and other services. The bishop, or his designee, has met, or offered to meet with victims/survivors and their families who wish to do so. The Diocese has designated 13 victim assistance coordinators, one for each county. A seven-member review board comprising primarily representatives from the mental health and legal profession functions as a confidential consultative body to the Diocese. Procedures for reporting a complaint of sexual abuse are articulated in the diocesan policies, procedures, and recommendations manual. That information has been publicly promulgated once. It was recommended that such public announcements be generated more frequently. The Diocese was provided with a prototype intake form to handle allegations reported. No confidentiality agreements have been entered into by the Diocese since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
Since June 2002, the Diocese has reported all cases involving living clergy to the prosecutor’s office. There is a procedure in place to advise victims/survivors of their right to make a report to civil authorities. Draft standards of ministerial behavior are awaiting the final approval of the bishop and the review board. Relevant diocesan personnel were reminded of the importance of completing the pending review and distribution of the Standard of Pastoral Conduct and Volunteer Code of Conduct protocols. The Diocese has a communications policy reflecting the bishop’s pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children. Relevant declarations are on the website and have appeared in local secular as well as the diocesan newspaper. Listening sessions have also been convened. The bishop or his designee has responded to parishes directly affected by ministerial misconduct.
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 as yet established a safe environment program that provides training for parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers who regularly work with youth. A program specifically developed for the needs of children has also yet to be put into practice. An Instruction directed that the Diocese implement these programs. The Diocese has also not fulfilled the requirement that all personnel, including contractors and volunteers who have regular contact with children and young people, undergo a background investigation. It was reported that diocesan personnel were of the belief that there was a grandfather clause that required only those people hired after March 2003 to undergo background evaluations. This matter was clarified, and an Instruction was issued to ensure that all personnel, including independent contractors and volunteers who have regular contact with children and young people, are required to undergo a background investigation. The diocese utilizes both the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and the FBI to conduct record checks. The Diocese employs screening and evaluation techniques in evaluating fitness of candidates for ordination. No clergy who has committed an act of sexual abuse of a minor has been transferred or taken up residence since June 2002 from the Diocese either for ministerial or residency purposes. The bishop or his delegate is in frequent conversation with representatives of cleric institutes in the Diocese, including on matters relating to effective response to allegations of sexual abuse by clergy. Included in the ongoing formation for clergy programs are several conferences and a retreat at which the diocesan attorney gave a presentation on sexual abuse matters.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Steubenville was issued two Instructions.
INSTRUCTION 1—The Diocese will ensure that all personnel, including independent contractors and volunteers who have regular contact with children and young people, are required to undergo a background investigation, regardless of when they were hired.
INSTRUCTION 2—The Diocese will select and implement a safe environment program that provides training for parents, educators, clergy, employees, and volunteers who have regular contact with youth, as well as an appropriate program for the specific needs of children and young people.
As of December 18, 2003, the bishop had decreed that all personnel, including independent contractors and volunteers who have regular contact with children and young people, will undergo a background investigation, regardless of when they were hired. This process has not yet been implemented. Research and selection of a safe environment program is being conducted by the diocesan review board. While efforts are underway by the Diocese of Steubenville, neither of the actions required in Instructions 1 and 2 have been fully completed. The Diocese of Steubenville is compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I, with the exception of Articles 12 and 13.
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