Bishop Accountability


Accused Priests: 10
Total Priests: 260
Alleged Victims: 20
Cost: $58,260 (of which $50,000 for one settlement, and $8,260 for counseling for victims (does not include insurer's contribution to counseling)

See the Dallas Morning News database entry on Bishop Patrick Cooney. The June 2002 database examined the records of bishops and identified those who had allowed accused priests to continue working or had otherwise protected priests accused of sexual abuse. The database is relevant to the bishops' "Nature and Scope" study because the bishops who prepared the surveys for the study are in many cases responsible for the "scope" of the problem.

Diocese responds to abuse reports

March 1, 2004

“I was really surprised. I was amazed at the extent of the actual abuse both in terms of the number of priests who were involved and the number of victims. It has been, and is, just a terrible experience.” That is how Bishop Patrick R. Cooney began his response when asked for his initial reaction following the press conference announcing the release of the two most recent reports by the National Review Board regarding the issue of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

Bishop Cooney continued, “ Obviously, I have tremendous sorrow for the pain suffered by the victims of this abuse. I wish it had never happened. But since it has happened, I also agree with the general tenor of the report of the Review Board that we, as Church, must continue to do the things that will limit anything like this from ever happening again.”

On Friday, February 27, the National Review Board released the results of the much anticipated John Jay Study and its own report of its study of the causes and context of the issue. The National Review Board, comprised of lay Catholics, was created by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as part of its commitment to ensure accountability when it adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in June of 2002.

The John Jay College of Criminal Justice was commissioned by the Review Board to complete a descriptive study of the nature and scope of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy in the United States. Introductory remarks by Gerald W. Lynch, president of the college, applauded what he called an extraordinary 98 percent response rate by the bishops declaring the participation “unheard of, unparalleled and historic in social science research.”

Researchers found that during the 52 years encompassed in the study, 4,392 of the 109,694 priests serving nationwide during the same timeframe had allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors leveled against them, representing approximately 4%. The report stated 10,667 individuals claimed to be victims and that $572,000,000 had been spent by dioceses regarding the issue. The analysis of submitted data was presented in a national aggregate.

More than 18 months ago, the Diocese of Gaylord performed a review of files dating back to its formation in 1971 and shared its findings first to prosecutors and then publicly released information regarding allegations which were made against priests serving in the diocese. As of today, allegations have been made by 20 victims against 10 of the approximately 260 diocesan and religious priests who had assignments in the Diocese of Gaylord. There were likely additional priests who served in the area as fill-in or temporary help over the past 32 years for whom there were no files. Four of the accused priests are deceased and none of the rest have faculties for ministry. One financial settlement was made which was fully reimbursed by insurance and the diocese also assisted with counseling for victims at a cost of $8,260.

“It is always our goal to be as open as we can while being respectful of the rights of all of the people involved,” stated Candace Neff, Director of Communications who also serves as the diocesan coordinator for misconduct issues.

“The file review was undertaken early on both because it was important for us to have an accurate understanding of what had happened in the past and because we wanted to discuss the matters with local prosecutors.” Neff added “Knowing how things were dealt with in our own situation was necessary to be effective in planning for the future. I think that’s certainly what the Bishops were also trying to do in calling for the John Jay Study.”

The second report released Friday was presented by the National Review Board following their interviews with more than 85 individuals, reviews of articles by experts in the field, as well as public records related to reported cases of abuse. While critical of the actions of a number of bishops and preparation for the priesthood by seminaries, the Board also stated that “by enacting the Charter and Essential Norms, the bishops have laid a framework for restoring the trust of the laity in the Church hierarchy in the United States and ensuring the safety of minors in the Church.”

“We’ve only had the reports a few days and so there really hasn’t been enough time to fully review them,” said Bishop Cooney. “I know we will all be reading them carefully and clearly the bishops will collectively discuss the findings to determine what future actions we should take.”

A number of things have already been implemented in the Diocese of Gaylord. In fact, during the process of the compliance audits the diocese was commended by the independent auditing team for being proactive in the matter by having policies and procedures in place since the late 1980's and for its cooperation with local civil authorities and experts in the matter. The diocese also received no instructions or recommendations from the auditors.

“We were obviously pleased with their findings,” Neff said, “but we also recognize there is more we can do to help protect children. This has been a very difficult and painful time, but I think it is also a time of great grace and opportunity.”

While the focus has been on the Catholic Church, statistics show that the vast majority of abuse occurs in families and many victims never come forward until adulthood. The John Jay Study showed that one-third of all the cases were only made known to church officials in 2002-2003, while the abuse actually occurred decades earlier. In the Diocese of Gaylord, for example, while allegations have come forward as recently as this year, the most recent incident is claimed to have occurred in 1989.

“We have been utilizing the expertise that exists locally as we try to develop programs that will hopefully make a difference overall – not just within the Church walls,” Bishop Cooney said. “The spirit of cooperation we have received has been just wonderful.”

Among the efforts taken by the diocese over the past two years include:

* Appointment of a Special Commission to review existing policies and make recommendations for revisions.

* Revision of policies.

* Restructure of the Misconduct Commission to the Sexual Misconduct Review Board comprised primarily of laity to review allegations and make other recommendations to the Bishop on the issue of sexual abuse policies and procedures.

* Appointment of an assistance coordinator and establishment of a toll fee line to report allegations of abuse.

* Participation in the Compliance Audit and John Jay Study.

* Creation of a new policy requiring criminal background checks for all paid employees, and those volunteers who regularly work with minors.

* Carrying out seven regional training sessions in cooperation with local Family Independence Agencies and law enforcement for church leadership and volunteers to help identify signs and symptoms of abuse and to review diocesan policies and procedures regarding work with minors.

“We know that the overwhelming majority of priests have never been involved in the abuse of children. But in the long run it just shouldn’t have happened at all – it should never happen – and I am so deeply saddened by the years of suffering by victims as a result of child abuse,” Bishop Cooney said. ” I want people to know that the Diocese of Gaylord remains firm in our commitment to continue to work toward preventing the abuse of any child in the future.”

10 cases in area diocese
Last complaint was in 1989

By Vanessa McCray
Traverse City (MI) Record-Eagle
February 28, 1004

TRAVERSE CITY - The Diocese of Gaylord said it welcomed the chance to participate in two studies and an audit examining the number and nature of complaints made against Catholic priests.

"Credible" complaints have been filed against 10 out of the 260 priests that served in the 21-county diocese since its 1971 formation, said Candace Neff, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Gaylord.

None of those 10 accused priests are in active ministry, Neff said. Four are dead and the others have resigned or been removed.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned two reports. Their findings were made public in aggregate Friday but did not include a breakdown, leaving that to individual dioceses to make public.

Figures from church officials in Michigan showed that the Archdiocese of Detroit and the state's six dioceses show credible accusations of sexual misconduct against as many as 114 priests and deacons since 1950.

"What we have here is a terrible chapter of church history," said Cardinal Adam Maida, leader of the Archdiocese of Detroit. "We wish it never had happened. But it is our history. ... We learn from our history ... and we must move forward."

The count for Michigan could overstate the number of priests accused if the same priest was accused in different dioceses, since not every report listed priests by name. Not all reports said how many minors were abused.

The Gaylord diocese also took part last year in an audit to check compliance with a charter passed by American bishops.

Neff said the diocese volunteered information in 2002, when it disclosed records to area prosecutors of sexual misconduct allegations dating back to the diocese's formation. The Gaylord diocese was one of the first in the nation to submit its data for the two studies, Neff said.

A total of 20 individuals reported to the diocese that "they were victims" of misconduct, Neff said. The most recent allegation occurred in 1989. Most of the reported occurrences of abuse happened in the 1970's, Neff said.

Since 1971, the diocese has entered into one $50,000 settlement agreement resulting from an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. Insurance reimbursed that amount. The diocese has also spent $8,260 to assist victims with counseling.

"The whole study is about ... finding out what happened, and that is why we did the review two years ago," Neff said. "We can't change history, we can't change what happened, but we can certainly learn from it and do what we can to prevent it."

Corinna Weber, a spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of Detroit, said each Michigan diocese cooperated with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the National Review Board studies.

Nationally, Meghan Dotter of the U.S. Conference Of Catholic Bishops said 97 percent of the dioceses participated in the two studies.

Bishop Patrick R. Cooney of the Gaylord Diocese said in a prepared statement that he was amazed by the extent of the abuse reported nationally.
"It has been and is just a terrible experience; obviously, I have tremendous sorrow for the pain suffered by the victims of this abuse...," he said. "We as a church must continue to do the things that will limit anything like this from ever happening again."

The Associated Press contributed to this report



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