DIOCESE OF LAFAYETTE IN
My brothers and sisters in the Lord:
Over the past two years the Catholic Church in the United States has passed through and, in a sense, is still passing through the most serious moral and spiritual crisis in its history. As part of facing up to this crisis, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in June 2002 adopted a Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. That charter addresses the Church’s commitment to deal effectively with cases of sexual abuse perpetrated on minors by agents of the Church. In fidelity to that charter, three national studies soon will be released to the public.
A single case of child sexual abuse would stain the Church. We know there have been multiple offenses. In fact, no one can be sure how many children have been abused by agents of the Church. At the same time, decisive steps have been taken in this diocese to address the crime of sexual abuse.
Here are the basic statistics as they are known to me: 26 individuals — sometimes the victim, sometimes a family member — have stepped forward to allege the sexual abuse of a child. Nine diocesan priests (3 percent of the 295 diocesan priests who have served our diocese over the past half century) have had credible allegations of sexual abuse involving minors brought against them.
The diocese has expended $456,285 in providing treatment for victims and perpetrators. This represents 0.79 percent of operating funds since 1988. Financial records prior to this time frame are minimal.
Priests who have had credible accusations brought against them have been removed from ministry.
All credible incidents of child abuse pre-date 1986. Even though accusations continue to come forward, the fact that incidents are historic rather than current suggests that efforts made to assure the safety of children put into place in this diocese long before the Dallas charter have made a difference.
All Catholics, I believe, grieve deeply that victims and their families and loved ones have suffered so deeply because of this intolerable sin and betrayal. Those of us who are priests also grieve. It is my prayer people will not condemn us, the vast majority of priests, for the egregious acts of the few. It is also important for victims/survivors to understand what was done to them was not their fault. I apologize once more to victims/survivors for the times the Church has failed to walk with them or to understand their pain. Only a victim/survivor can, I suspect, truly understand the depth of the nightmare abuse causes.
I am sharing this information because national studies soon to be released are bound to receive media attention. The figures reported will be in aggregate. You need to know the experience of this diocese.
I urge you to take special and detailed notice of "A report to the Catholic people of Northcentral Indiana" [see below] in this edition of The Catholic Moment. They provide more statistical information and review how the sexual abuse of minors has been addressed in this diocese and the measures taken to assure the safety of children and young people. I plan to devote my column to this topic in the Feb. 22 edition as well.
I cannot begin to explain the ache in my heart for those who have been abused. I hold them up to the Lord in my daily prayers, begging God to bring them to healing. I pray also for those who have perpetrated these horrific acts, that they will recognize what they have done and accept the penance demanded of them. I pray, too, for the priests who have suffered through false accusations, as well as those who are tortured by the shame thrust upon priesthood and the Church by those who have perpetrated sexual abuse.
Asking for your prayers and assuring you once more of my determination to assure that our Church will be a safe environment for children, I am
On the extent of sexual abuse of minors since 1950
As reported in the Nov. 9 edition of The Catholic Moment, three national studies are forthcoming which will focus on the sexual abuse crisis that has rocked the Catholic Church in the United States.
The first will be published on or about Tuesday, Jan. 6, and will report on the audits conducted in each diocese by the Gavin Group (Winthrop, Mass.) to test compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by bishop members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in Dallas in 2002. This diocese was found in compliance.
A second report will be issued on or about Feb. 27. It is being compiled by the John Jay College for Criminal Justice, part of the City University of New York, and will report national statistics: the number of sex abuse perpetrators, known victims, costs.
A third report will be issued the same day as the John Jay College report. It will focus on a comprehensive study of the causes and context of the sex abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and will be released by the National Review Board.
The bishops’ conference (USCCB) has been notified that the John Jay study results will be reported in the aggregate. Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the USCCB, has suggested that the aggregate statistics may be startling. It is important to note that the Catholic Church is not a monolith. Rather, there are 195 dioceses in the United States, each with its own history and each independent of the rest. To place the John Jay report in context, it is important to present an accounting of what the Diocese of Lafayette-in-Indiana knows about incidents of child sexual abuse perpetrated by its agents since 1950 (the benchmark used by the John Jay study) and its response to that abuse.
Seven of the allegations against diocesan priests could not be substantiated and ultimately were deemed “not credible.” Three of these are deceased.
No allegations of sexual abuse of minors have been brought against deacons or women religious.
One non-ordained Church employee and one volunteer have been identified in allegations.
Diocesan records show that 763 priests have served in the diocese during the 1950-2003 time frame: 295 diocesan priests, six extern priests and, as best as can be determined, 462 religious order priests.
There are no records to show the number of non-ordained Church employees and volunteers for this time period. Currently it is estimated that the diocese and parishes of the diocese have some 500 non-ordained employees. The diocese has no current estimate of the number of volunteers, although to date, 3,992 employees and volunteers have participated in required safe conduct training sessions.
Of the nine diocesan priests against whom credible accusations have been brought (3 percent of the diocesan priests who have served this Local Church in the past half century), three are deceased. None remains in active ministry. The extern priests were also removed from ministry.
No criminal charges have been filed in any case involving priests or others associated with the Diocese of Lafayette, nor is the diocese aware of any pending criminal cases. Two civil cases have been introduced. The first was dismissed. The second is pending. Although not required by state law, the diocese is collaborating with legal counsel in deciding how to report historic cases to proper civil authorities, a suggestion made during the audit of compliance with the Dallas charter.
How the sexual abuse of minors is addressed and the measures taken to assure the safety of children and young people
Mandate to report abuse
Reporting the sexual abuse of a minor to the Church
Call the Office of the Vicar General (800-942-2397) or the Office of Assistance Ministry (800-533-7018). A notice to this effect is published regularly in The Catholic Moment.
Compose in writing a detailed description of the facts/incidents of the abuse and send it as soon as possible to: Mr. Max Layden, 712 Bank One Building, Lafayette, IN 47901. If required by law, this information will be communicated to Child Protective Services and/or the appropriate civil authorities.
Note: The diocese conducts its own investigation of instances of child sexual abuse because its focus extends beyond the scope of Child Protective Services/civil authorities. Their focus is on victims who currently are minors. The Church investigates all instances, regardless of the age of the victim/survivor.
Support for victims
The process when an allegation is raised
A representative of the diocese will meet with the victim/survivor, the parents or guardians of a victimized minor and, if possible and appropriate, with the minor. The diocese will offer assistance for the psychological care of the victim/survivor and appropriate family members.
A representative of the diocese also will meet with the accused employee/volunteer. If the accused admits that the allegation is true, that individual’s employment or volunteer work will be terminated immediately.
In the case of a priest/deacon, if the allegation is substantiated, after an appropriate process in accord with Church law, the ordained is permanently removed from ecclesiastical ministry either by requesting or receiving his resignation, laicization or removal of faculties.
Should the accused deny the allegation, that person will be required to take an immediate leave of absence. The accused will remain on leave of absence until a determination of guilt or innocence has been made. If the accused is found guilty, the individual’s employment or volunteer work will be terminated immediately and the diocese will encourage the individual to seek appropriate treatment. If the accused is found not guilty, the individual will be returned to active employment or volunteer work and lost pay reimbursed.
Care always is taken to protect the rights of the parties involved, particularly those of the person claiming to have been sexually abused and of the person against whom the charge has been made. If an accusation is proven to be unfounded, every step possible is taken to restore the good name of the accused individual.
The Diocesan Review Board
The review board answers two basic questions:
• Do the allegations conform to the definition of child abuse of a minor as outlined in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People?
• Are the allegations credible, i.e., worthy of belief?
Diocesan Review Board members are: Jason Dombkowski of Lafayette, a West Lafayette police officer; Kathi Lange, MSW, of Attica, a family therapist; Cindy Marion of Lafayette, a West Lafayette police detective; Jerry Mattern, MSW, of Attica, a social worker; Sister Lois Ann Meyer, SNDdeN, superintendent of Catholic schools; Father Theodore Rothrock, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, Carmel; Roxanne Brunsman of Anderson, a psychiatric nurse; Msgr. Robert L. Sell, III, JCL, vicar general of the diocese; and Charles “Max” Layden, J.D., a Lafayette attorney in private practice.
Victims assistance minister
A victims assistance minister has been designated to offer pastoral care to the victim, the victim’s family or other persons affected. The diocese’s victim assistance minister is David R. Wilson and he can be reached at 800-533-7018. Persons also may wish to call Msgr. Robert L. Sell, III, vicar general, at 800-942-2397.
Conduct in ministry officer
Screening of employees
All employees and volunteers, including the ordained (priests and deacons), are required to be screened prior to beginning their duties. This includes reference checks and a criminal background check.
All employees and volunteers who have regular contact with minors are required to participate in a safe conduct protocol in-service.
Criminal background checks
The background check includes a review of the Indiana State Police criminal history database, state and county criminal history databases in other states for employees or volunteers who live out-of-state or who have recently moved to Indiana, the Indiana Sex Offender Registry, child welfare agency records for substantiated reports of child abuse or domestic abuse, and driving records.
Background checks are conducted by Results Inc., a firm specializing in obtaining criminal histories, driving records and credit reports.
To date, 1,650 criminal background checks have been completed on current employees and volunteers in three of the six diocesan regions, or deaneries. The three remaining deaneries are expected to be completed by March 2004. Checks to date have surfaced three persons with felony backgrounds, all with sentences completed. One person has been barred from ministry that involves children. The other two are judged to be no threat to children.
Safe conduct in-service
The in-services include such topics as appropriate boundaries and established prohibitions in ministry, the nature of the sexual abuse problem, signs and symptoms of sexual abuse in minors, and laws, policies and procedures about reporting sexual abuse allegations. The in-services also review policies and procedures adopted by the diocese to prevent child sexual abuse; types of disclosure and how to respond appropriately; and policies and procedures to respond to allegations of sexual abuse.
Since June 2003, 3,992 persons have participated in 135 in-service sessions. Three of these sessions have been conducted in Spanish.
Principal trainer has been Helen Bender, human resources director, who, after providing special training, is assisted by other persons who have been trained to conduct the in-service training in order to increase the availability of presenters across the diocese.
These persons are: Connie Bergesen, Noblesville; Denise Blanton, Alexandria; Pat Boyd, Jason Hart, Susie Mehling and Rich Ruh, all of Muncie; Father Michael McKinney, Logansport; Mary Lou Fischer, Scott McNamee and Mark Timko, all of Fishers; Shirley Gamble, Crawfordsville; Denise McGonigal, Carmel; Debbie Mecklenburg, Sue Schmitz and Michelle Sanson, all of Lafayette; Karen Sward, Kokomo; and David R. Wilson, Dunkirk.
Family life programs
Additional and more complete information about the various elements of the Church’s “Promise to Protect and Pledge to Heal” can be found at the following Internet locations:
• www.dioceseoflafayette.org — Click on the “Child Protection Protocols” logo on the main page. Here you will find complete texts of the diocese’s revised and updated policies addressing these issues, including “Child Protection Protocols,” “Protocols for Ministry to Children” and “Background Check Policy.” (More than 11,000 printed copies of the “Child Protection Protocols” have been distributed. A printed copy can be obtained by writing Human Resources, Diocese of Lafayette, P.O. Box 260, Lafayette, IN 47901.)
• www.usccb.org/ocyp — Web site for the Office of Children and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Extensive information, including texts and streaming video, of the Church’s “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal.” Contains the complete text of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in English and Spanish. A printed text of the charter also can be ordered by calling 800-235-8722. Cite Publication No. 5-540.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.