DIOCESE OF PUEBLO CO
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Since the Spring of 2003, all the Catholic dioceses of the United States have been engaged in the sad and difficult work of compiling information on the numbers of priests and deacons accused of sexual abuse of minors. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, in conjunction with the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the USCCB and the National Review Board, commissioned the John Jay School of Criminal Justice in New York City to study the incidences of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy throughout our nation. The John Jay Study covers the period from 1950 to June of 2002.
The report on the John Jay study is to be made public on February 27, 2004. But as the Bishop of the Diocese, I find it critical to share the statistical information about the Pueblo Diocese with you now. I hope that knowing the historical extent of this problem will assist in making our current and future efforts to prevent sexual abuse more effective. For the purpose of my report to you, we have adopted the same time line as the John Jay study.
Based upon a review of the historical records in our possession, between 1950 and June of 2002, 16 persons made allegations of sexual abuse of minors against clergy affiliated with the Diocese of Pueblo. Seven diocesan priests of the Diocese of Pueblo were accused and five extern priests working in the Diocese of Pueblo were also accused. The number of clergyman who have served in the Diocese of Pueblo from 1950 to June of 2002 is 501. Thus a little over 2% of the clergy who have served in the Diocese since 1950, that is for the past 52 years, have been accused. Of these, three have admitted their offences. Of the two diocesan priests who admitted their offences, one has died and the other has been laicized. The one religious order priest, has long since left the Diocese of Pueblo as have the other four religious order men. Of the remaining five diocesan priests, four have died and the charge against the last one is unsubstantiated.
The recently released report of the USCCB on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People recommended that annual reports be made to the Office of Child and Youth Protection. Among other things, these reports should contain the number of allegations of sexual abuse of minors, the number of victims and the costs involved. At the appropriate time I will release such information concerning the time period from June of 2002 to the present.
The Diocese of Pueblo reported for the John Jay study that $403,000. has been paid out by the “diocese to alleged victims of sexual abuse between 1950 and 2002.” The majority of this amount was paid for by insurance, the rest was paid from diocesan reserves and reimbursement from the clergy involved.
Every Allegation Investigated
The Diocese of Pueblo investigates every allegation of clergy sexual abuse of a minor. For this purpose a Diocesan Sexual Misconduct Review Board was established for our Diocese in the early 1990s. And as you know, the revised policies and procedures for the Diocese were published last month in the January issue of The Chronicle of Catholic Life.
Violation of Trust
I am saddened by the clergy of our Diocese who were found to have abused a minor during the last fifty-two years. And it is also possible that not all victims of abuse by the clergy have yet come forward. The abuse of minors is sinful and a serious crime, a violation of trust by those called to be the messengers of the Gospel. It is also true that the vast majority of our priests and deacons have never offended in this way but have lived their lives and fulfilled their duties with grace.
The spiritual and emotional suffering of the victims is something that I have witnessed. I have also witnessed the shock and anger of our Church on account of this scandal. I apologize from my heart to the victims and to all those who have suffered or are suffering because of these misdeeds and mistakes.
What our Diocese has Done
Examining the past with sorrow and regret can provide us with the will to see that the abuse of the young is stopped through appropriate measures. The Diocese of Pueblo has welcomed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People issued by the Bishops of our country in June of 2002. The following is a list of the steps the Diocese has taken so far.
Prevention: All of our candidates for ministry in our Diocese are evaluated and screened by professionals and lay persons. We have adopted a diocesan plan for creating safe environments for minors and adults. We have issued a revised Code of Pastoral Conduct for all priests, deacons, pastoral ministers and staffs working in our diocese. And we have issued new directions for all diocesan employees to follow when they are with minors.
Background Checks: We now require diocesan employees and volunteers who work with minors to undergo criminal background checks.
Training: We have instituted training in the Good touch / Bad touch program for all teachers and volunteers working in our Catholic schools.
Victims Assistance Coordinator: A victims’ assistance coordinator has been appointed to aide victim/survivors who come forward. This is to insure that the Diocese provides coordinated help that will be beneficial to victims and their families. Anyone with information concerning the abuse of a minor by a Catholic clergyman is encouraged to call Jayne Mazur at Catholic Charities (719) 544-4233.
Oversight: The Diocesan Misconduct Review Board reviews the reports of investigations into allegations of sexual abuse by clergy as well as by lay employees. The board, which is primarily made of lay persons, makes recommendations to me on the appropriate action to be undertaken relative to victim/survivors and to the accused clergyman or layperson.
What the Diocese Will Do
We look forward to an expansion of the Good touch / Bad touch program, which will include providing instruction to all volunteers, parents and all youth in religious education programs.
Preventing future abuse and promoting healing continues to be a high priority for me as well as for all concerned persons of our Diocese. I ask for your continued prayers, support and guidance
+Arthur N. Tafoya
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