The Diocese of Yakima (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1951, encompasses seven counties in central Washington, consists of 41 parishes and six elementary schools, with 24 deacons and 74 diocesan priests serving a population of 68,561 registered Catholics. The Most Reverend Carlos A. Sevilla, SJ, who was installed as bishop in 1997, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of October 13-17, 2003.
The information set forth below represents conditions as they were found during the week of the audit.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has established an outreach program. The bishop has met with all victims/survivors of abuse in the Diocese who have reported the abuse since June 2002. The Diocese established a sexual abuse prevention policy in 1993 and updated it to conform to the Charter. The Diocese was commended for this outreach. The Diocese has two qualified victim assistance coordinators, one of whom speaks Spanish. The diocesan review board was established in 2002 and consists of eight members, including one priest and seven 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, unless requested by a victim.
To Guarantee Effective Response to Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has established effective liaison with local civil authorities, ensuring an open dialogue regarding sexual abuse allegations. 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 and has held listening sessions throughout the territory. The Diocese was commended for the release of detailed information to the media regarding the number of members of the clergy accused of sexual abuse and the number of victims/survivors who have come forward.
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 safe environment program, consisting of mandatory seminars for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with children. Training for children is provided through the parochial school system and the Youth Ministry. 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 conducted background evaluations for all diocesan and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. 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. In the cases of priests who had relocated to other dioceses for purposes of residence, letters were sent to the appropriate bishops, confidentially providing all information relating to allegations of sexual abuse of a child by the priests. The bishop of Yakima 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. Because of its limited clergy and staff resources, the Diocese has been unable to engage in collaborative discussions 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 established programs for priestly formation.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
As of December 1, 2003, the Diocese of Yakima was found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I. The Diocese was issued two Commendations.
COMMENDATION 1—For a succinct and comprehensive sexual abuse prevention policy that has been in place since 1993 and that anticipated most of the requirements of the Charter. This policy has been revised to contain all applicable elements of the Charter.
COMMENDATION 2—For the bishop’s commitment to openness and transparency in dealing with issues of sexual abuse of minors, as evidenced by the holding of listening sessions throughout the Diocese and the release of pertinent data regarding sexual abuse of minors to the media.
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