OF CHEYENNE WY
Credibly Accused Priests: 9 (7 diocesan and 2 religious)
Total Priests: 204 (diocesan, religious, and extern priests)
Allegations: 19 (of which 5 "have proven to be without foundation")
Sources of Funds: $44,800 from insurers and $10,900 from diocesan resources
See Cathy Lynn Grossman, Survey: More Clergy Abuse Cases Than Previously Thought (2/10/04) with AP table of data for 74 dioceses.
Questions and Answers
Summary Report: Child Protection Accountability 1950-2003
Diocese of Cheyenne
1. What has the Diocese of Cheyenne done regarding child protection?
The diocese has had a Sexual Misconduct Policy in place since 1994. This
policy was updated in March of 2003 and again in December of 2003. A Boundaries
Workshop presented by teleconference was held in February of 2003. All
personnel having access to children were required to participate. Over
4,000 background checks have been completed.
2. What has been the scope of the situation in the Diocese of Cheyenne?
From 1950 until Dec. 31, 2003, 204 diocesan, religious and extern priests have served in the Diocese. There have been 19 allegations of sexual misconduct against priests involving minors brought to the attention of the Diocese of Cheyenne. Fourteen of these a allegations have been considered credible and 5 have proven to be without foundation. The 14 credible allegations were lodged against 9 priests in those 53 years. Seven of those priests were diocesan and two were religious. During the reporting period, there were no criminal charges filed against any priest.
3. When did these incidents reportedly occur?
Nearly all of the allegations reportedly occurred prior to 1990. Three occurred in the 1950s, 3 in the 1960s, 4 in the 1970s, 3 in the 1980s, zero in the 1990s and 1 in 2003. There is no priest in ministry today in the Diocese of Cheyenne who has had credible allegations made against him.
4. Who were the priests and what happened to them?
When required, the names of priests have been turned over to civil authorities and appropriate canonical penalties have been applied to these priests. None have been criminally charged. The priests involved have resigned from the priesthood, have been laicized, are no longer in active ministry or they are deceased.
5. What assistance was offered to those who made allegations?
The priority when someone has been hurt is to help that person heal. A total of 19 people have come forward. While child sexual abuse exists throughout society, when a member of the clergy is involved, it can be particularly painful because it is such a violation of a sacred trust. The Diocese has long offered counseling and pastoral support when someone makes an allegation that is credible. We have found that each person’s needs are different and we work to meet their needs, while respecting their privacy
6. How much has this cost?
Since 1950, $55,700 has been expended for counseling, assistance and
legal fees. The insurance company has covered $44,800 and the Diocese
of Cheyenne has paid $10,900 from diocesan resources over these past 53
None of the priests is still a member of the clergy or in active ministry.
Since 1950, $55,700 has been expended for counseling and assisting victims and to pay their legal fees, according to the probe. Insurance paid $44,800, while the rest, $10,900, came from diocesan resources.
The Diocese of Cheyenne, which guides the church's activities in Wyoming, released the findings of its audit in advance of a confidential survey of the nation's 195 dioceses.
The study, commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is an attempt to tally every church abuse case in the country since 1950 and develop safeguards to prevent sexual abuse.
Ricken held a news conference in the diocesan offices to outline the findings. Names of victims and priests were not released, and no criminal charges were filed against any priest, he said.
"In my estimation, even one of these abuses is one too many. Unfortunately, we have had several in our diocese over the past 53 years," Ricken said, quoting from a letter that will be published in the Wyoming Catholic Register and mailed to each Catholic family in the state. There are about 50,000 Catholics in Wyoming.
"I apologize to all those who have been victimized, either directly or indirectly, by priests who have abused children," he said. "I am very aware of the devastation that has been wrought by this terrible problem - for victims, for priests, and for all Catholics.
"I remain committed to healing these wounds and to do whatever is necessary to see that this does not happen again."
Ricken said the Diocese of Cheyenne has been proactive in dealing with such cases, and in 1994, published its first sexual misconduct policy. It was updated as recently as December 2003.
Background checks have been ordered for all clergy, employees and volunteers who have regular contact with children, the elderly or finances, he said, adding that more than 4,000 checks have been completed.
In addition, a Safe Environment Program has been presented to students who attend Catholic schools, and clergy, teachers, diocesan and parish staff and volunteers have undergone training aimed at preventing abuse.
Ricken said 19 allegations of misconduct involving minors were reported to diocesan leaders from 1950 to 2003, but five were without foundation.
Seven of the nine priests involved were diocesan and the other two were on temporary assignment in Wyoming.
Of the 14 allegations deemed credible, three occurred in the 1950s, three in the 1960s, four in the 1970s, three in the 1980s and one in 2003.
The priests involved have resigned from the priesthood, are no longer members of the clergy or in active ministry, or are dead, Ricken said.
The John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City is conducting the study for the church, which includes the period from 1950 to 2002. The Diocese of Cheyenne went a step further and included 2003 in its audit.
Nationwide, more than 325 of the nation's 46,000 clergy have either resigned or have been barred from church work since the child sexual abuse crisis erupted two years ago in Boston, then spread nationwide.
The John Jay report is to be released Feb. 27. The Cheyenne diocese joined others around the country in releasing information before results of the nationwide study are made public.
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