OF FARGO ND
Accused Priests and Deacons: 17 (12 diocesan, 5 order and extern)
Total Priests and Deacons: 693
Alleged Victims: 17 (from AP table)
Cost: $821,830 (for compensation to victims of sexual abuse, psychological counseling, and attorneys’ fees to defend both legitimate and false and/or unsubstantiated allegations made against clergy. The majority of these costs have been paid by either our insurance company or from our diocesan insurance fund)
See Cathy Lynn Grossman, Survey: More Clergy Abuse Cases Than Previously Thought (2/10/04) with AP table of data for 74 dioceses.
Press Release: Bishop designates February 27 as Day of Prayer for Victims of Abuse
To ensure that everything possible is being done to eliminate the risk of sexual abuse of minors by clergy or church workers, the United States Catholic bishops requested that two studies be undertaken. The results of the studies will be issued by the National Review Board on February 27.
One document will summarize the results of the John Jay Study, which is a quantitative analysis of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy from 1950 to 2002. Information will not be listed by diocese, but as a whole for all U.S. dioceses.
The second document will summarize the findings of the National Review Board Study. This is a qualitative report based on interviews with about 60 individuals, including bishops. Statistics from the John Jay Study may also be incorporated into this report.
In conjunction with the issuance of the reports, Bishop Samuel Aquila has designated February 27 as a Day of Prayer for Victims of Abuse.
After reading an article by Bishop Robert Carlson of the Diocese of Sioux Falls designating this day of prayer, Bishop Aquila decided to designate February 27 as a day of prayer for the entire Diocese of Fargo.
"Bishop Carlson noted that the best response to the John Jay study is prayer,” Bishop Aquila said. “We have gone through a difficult time in the history of the Catholic Church. We need to pray that the Church will be purified by what we learn and the changes we make as a result of these reports. We must become more faithful to Jesus Christ and to His teachings given in the Gospels and taught by the Church.”
Bishop Aquila said this day of prayer is for all victims of abuse. “We must pray for all people who have been abused -- those abused by clergy or church workers and those abused by family members, acquaintances and strangers. It is a day for us to come together in prayer to ask for healing, forgiveness and an increase in the attitude of deep respect for all. This respect is grounded in the inherent dignity of every human person created in the image and likeness of God.”
The Day of Prayer for Victims of Abuse will be recognized by Bishop Aquila as he celebrates noon Mass at the Cathedral of St. Mary, Fargo, on February 27. Priests throughout the diocese are encouraged to recognize the day in their February 27 liturgies, as well.
“For those who cannot attend Mass that day, I encourage individuals and families to pray at home or during Eucharistic Adoration for this special intention,” Bishop Aquila said.
In addition to the two reports being released February 27, the U.S. bishops also requested that dioceses be reviewed for their compliance with the provisions of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Results of that review were released on January 6.
The Diocese of Fargo was shown to be in full compliance with the Charter and received one commendation. The commendation recognized the work the diocese had accomplished before the implementation of the Charter in June 2002. That work included establishment of a written policy regarding responding to allegations of sexual abuse and the creation of a committee to assist Bishop Aquila in carrying out his responsibilities prior to the adoption of the charter.
In September 2003, Bishop Aquila shared in his New Earth column a summary of the extent of abuse and alleged abuse in the diocese. “Between 1950 and July 31, 2003, 693 priests and deacons have served in the Diocese of Fargo,” he wrote. “Of those, 17 priests and deacons have had allegations of sexual misconduct with minors brought against them. Of the 17, 12 of the clergy belonged to the diocese; the other five were religious order priests or priests from other dioceses. This is about 2.5 percent of the clergy who have served in the diocese over the past half century.”
Bishop Aquila wrote that, of the 17 clergy, four are deceased and 13 are no longer in active ministry.
“Any act of abuse of a minor is inexcusable,” Bishop Aquila said. “We must continue to promote a culture of life, one that views any act of abuse against children, or any person, as a direct act of violence against God and all of humanity.”
Additional information about the John Jay Study and National Review Board
Report will be available on the diocesan website at www.fargodiocese.org
and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website at http://www.usccb.org/ocyp/audit2003/report.htm
following the February 27 issuance of results. Information about the Charter
is already available on both sites.
Message to the People: Background checks to ensure safety of
Two years have passed since my arrival in Fargo as your bishop. My heart is filled with joy in coming to know the faithful of the diocese. In my visits to 92 of our 158 parishes, I have experienced the beauty of North Dakota. Your love for Christ and the Church is a tremendous blessing for me as your bishop.
One issue all U.S. bishops have addressed over the past 18 months is clergy sexual misconduct with minors. As a new bishop, I have ached for the victims, the faithful, the Church as a whole and yes, even for the perpetrators of such terrible acts. I believe that all of us must more zealously respond to the call to holiness — a call each of us receives in our baptism. We must form our daily lives with the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church. All of our words, actions, thoughts and desires must be those of our Lord. With St. Paul, we must put on “the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Ephesians 4:9).
From July 21-25, the independent audit team for the National Review Board evaluated the diocese for its compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The audit team came to Fargo, reviewed our policies, practices and clergy (priests and deacons) personnel files and interviewed priests and members of the Diocese’s Review Board. I am pleased to report to you that “[the] Diocese was found to be in compliance, both in substance and in spirit, with all the articles of the Charter.” I want to share with you the results of the survey.
Between 1950 and July 31, 2003, 693 priests and deacons have served in the Diocese of Fargo. Of those, 17 priests and deacons have had allegations of sexual misconduct with minors brought against them. Of the 17, 12 of the clergy belonged to the diocese; the other five were religious order priests or priests from other dioceses. This is about 2.5 percent of the clergy who have served in the diocese over the past half century. Of the 17 clergy, four are deceased and 13 are no longer in active ministry. Most of the known claims have been resolved, some recently and some years ago; however, some persons are just coming forward from many years ago. The diocese continues to assist with the counseling of some victims.
Over the years, the diocese has paid $821,830 for compensation to victims of sexual abuse, psychological counseling, and attorneys’ fees to defend both legitimate and false and/or unsubstantiated allegations made against clergy. The majority of these costs have been paid by either our insurance company or from our diocesan insurance fund. The God’s Gift Appeal funds have not been substantially impacted as a result of these tragic events or by the above expenditures.
I want to assure the Faithful of the Diocese of Fargo that I take my responsibility as bishop very seriously and that no type of sexual misconduct with a minor by any person who works in the diocese will be tolerated. We will fully cooperate with the civil authorities in any new cases submitted to us.
I want to again express my sorrow on behalf of the Church to all victims, who as minors, experienced sexual misconduct by any member of the clergy. I am sincerely sorry for the suffering it has caused in your lives. I pray that through the grace of God, you may experience healing.
Article 13 of the Charter states: “Dioceses/eparchies will evaluate the background of all diocesan/eparchial and parish personnel who have regular contact with minors. Specifically, they will utilize the resources of law enforcement and other community agencies. In addition, they will employ adequate screening and evaluative techniques in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination.”
To evaluate whether a person has a history of sexual abuse, we have determined that background checks will be performed on all persons who have regular contact with minors. This includes all teachers, catechists, youth ministers, directors of religious education, persons who volunteer to drive minors to sporting events, etc. The cost for the checks will be the responsibility of the local parish. Our insurance company has worked out a very reasonable cost structure for this important service, which will help us ensure the safety of our children.
Many of you are longstanding, dedicated individuals who have helped form the young people in your parish. It is understandable that many may resent the idea of background checks, but as a matter of prudence and as a possible deterrent, we must perform them as part of our effort to take reasonable measures to protect young people. These checks demonstrate our commitment to their safety. I therefore ask that all of us who have contact with minors willingly participate.
I ask you to pray for one another and for me — but especially for abuse victims and their healing. Let us ask God to open our hearts to the call to holiness, so that we can become the living saints the world so urgently needs, and that these types of tragedies will not occur in the future.
Sincerely and gratefully yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend Samuel J. Aquila
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.