The Diocese of Wilmington (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1868, encompasses the state of Delaware and the Eastern Shore region of Maryland. It consists of 57 parishes, 20 missions, and 39 elementary and secondary schools and serves a population of about 215,000 registered Catholics with 77 deacons and 119 priests. The Most Reverend Michael A. Saltarelli, who was installed as bishop in 1995, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of October 13-17, 2003.
The information presented below represents conditions as they were found during the week of the audit.
FindingsTo Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has had a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors since 1985, recently revised in October 2003 and titled Revised Policy and Procedures Governing Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors. This policy provides for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. The Diocese has a victim assistance coordinator, the director of behavioral health, who has a master’s degree in nursing and more than 12 years of experience in behavioral health. A lay review board was established in August 2002 and consists of 12 respected members of the community, including two retired judges, two attorneys (one of whom is Jewish), a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a priest, and a nurse. 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 extensive contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse violations, including the attorney general of Delaware, who has been provided with all information requested in every known case for the past 40 years. The Diocese has 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 and well-publicized code of conduct for priests, deacons, employees, and volunteers. 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 developed a five-part safe environment program, For the Sake of God’s Children, for presentation to all clergy and other adults having regular contact with children. Through the schools and religious education programs, all children are provided with age-appropriate training. A Commendation was issued for this effort. 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 and young people. The Diocese has implemented an excellent background investigation program for all members of the clergy and for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. At the time of the audit, more than 6,000 checks had been completed. 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. However, five priests are maintaining residences in other dioceses, and the bishops of those dioceses know of their presence and backgrounds. The bishop of Wilmington 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 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 has an ongoing formation program for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the CharterAt the conclusion of the audit, the Diocese of Wilmington was found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I. One Commendation was issued.
COMMENDATION—For the foresight and diligence of the bishop and his staff in preparing a detailed safe environment program, For the Sake of God’s Children.
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