DIOCESE OF DES MOINES IA
“We cannot erase the pain of those who have been victimized in the past, and to them I have apologized on behalf of the Church. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, created in response to stories of abuse, calls for openness. As a result of the charter, we’ve been able to better assist victims as they come forward,” said Bishop Joseph L. Charron, C.PP.S.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, through the Office of Child and Youth Protection, has audited dioceses across the country to let the public know whether the dioceses have been complying with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People since it was first approved in 2002. Auditors said the Diocese of Des Moines has complied, and it was commended for its openness and transparency.
“A commendation was issued for the excellence and extent of the policy and procedures put in place by the Bishop to ensure a sharing of information on issues related to sexual abuse of minors,” according to an audit report to be released today.
Two auditors visited the Diocese of Des Moines for several days in October, and interviewed diocesan staff and some with no connection to the diocese. They reviewed the diocesan policy, the work of the Allegation Review Committee and the diocese’s commitment to create a safe environment for children. The auditors, having visited many dioceses, made a recommendation on how the Diocese of Des Moines might monitor ongoing compliance of its background checks. The recommendation has been implemented.
The Diocese of Des Moines announced in 2002 the creation of a policy review committee and the creation of the Allegation Review Committee, including names of the lay experts who volunteered their time for the committee.
This past September, Bishop Charron announced that he was accepting the recommendations of the Allegation Review Committee regarding three priests. The Charter requires the Bishop to pursue the process of removing them from the priesthood (laicization). The committee reviewed allegations made regarding five living priests in the diocese who faced allegations of sexual abuse of minors.
The charter called for all dioceses to participate in a survey by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for a study on the nature and scope of abuse in the Church. The diocese today also is releasing the survey statistics it sent in for this study. The survey asked for the number of all allegations that were not totally implausible from the years 1950-2002.
In the 52 years covered by the study, 11 of 335 priests who served in the Diocese of Des Moines were accused of sexual abuse of minors. All of the allegations except one stem from reported incidents from the 1980s or before. The Allegation Review Committee heard testimony regarding five of the priests. The remaining priests are either deceased or left the diocese decades ago.
The Diocese reported that in the 52-year timeframe covered by the survey, 30 people made allegations. Since 2002, when the Charter was implemented by the nation’s bishops, the diocese has encouraged victims to contact Victim Assistance Advocate Jo Mulvihill at (515) 286-2031 for counseling, support and to make a formal complaint.
In addition to reporting the number of priests and people affected by allegations, the diocese reported $680,500 was given to persons making allegations of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002 for settlements and counseling. Insurance paid $335,250 and the diocese paid $345,250. The diocesan monies came from reserve funds, principally from the Bishop’s Residence Fund, which includes the proceeds and investment income from the sale of the former residence on 37th Street sold in 1982. Bishops Dingman, Bullock and Charron have not used that fund to purchase a new bishop’s residence but have lived in an apartment. No money from endowment funds, individual contributions, parish collections or the Annual Diocesan Appeal was used.
The diocese has had a policy addressing sexual abuse of minors by clergy since 1988. Since the Charter was created, a new diocesan policy puts more emphasis on the needs of victims. In addition, programs are in place to prevent opportunities for abuse.
“Even one incident of a priest abusing a minor is a tragedy,” said Bishop Charron. “Since this issue came to light, we have made great strides in addressing it. We created a new, victim-centered policy, we now have a Victim Assistance Advocate, and we are privileged to have experts in the area of child abuse serving on our Allegation Review Committee. In addition, we are in the process of training volunteers in every parish in southwest Iowa in child sexual abuse prevention, and we’re doing background checks on all volunteers and staff who spend substantial time with children in a church setting.”
In the last six months, more than 2,300 teachers, coaches, religious education instructors, youth ministers and parents in the Diocese of Des Moines have been trained in creating a safe environment for children. Facilitators continue to train volunteers and employees in southwest Iowa .
In addition, background checks are being done on all employees and volunteers who spend a significant amount of time with children in a church setting.
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