DIOCESE OF YOUNGSTOWN OH
Dear Friends in Christ:
For the last two years the Catholic Church has anguished over the revelation of past incidents of sexual abuse of minors. This has been an exceedingly painful experience, first of all for victims and their families, but for many other members of the Church as well.
While the situation in the Diocese of Youngstown is not as severe as it is in some other places, we too have had some accusations of past incidents of sexual abuse, and we know that even a single incident would be too many! Once again, therefore, as I have in the past, I wish to express our sincere regrets and apologies to any member of the Church who has been harmed by the actions or decisions of a priest or bishop, or any other member of the Church. And with the hope of assisting in the process of reconciliation, I continue to be willing to meet with any individual or family who has suffered from past incidents of sexual abuse.
The information contained in this update is part of an ongoing effort to keep you informed about the situation in the Diocese of Youngstown, to remind you of our response, and to ensure you that the Church in this Diocese will do everything possible to provide a safe environment for its ministry to children and young people.
Let us pray for forgiveness and the healing of past wounds; let us recognize all the good the Church has done and continues to do; and let us resolve to move into the future with hearts purified and renewed, strengthened in our commitment to serve the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church to the very best of our abilities.
Thomas J. Tobin
The Diocese of Youngstown is blessed with many good and faithful priests serving the Church. To these men we say “thank you” for their dedication to their ministries every day.
Nonetheless, we are also painfully aware of the national situation regarding sexual abuse of children. It has been, and continues to be, the commitment of the Diocese of Youngstown to educate members of our diocesan Church about the evil and consequences of abuse of children and young people, to provide safe environments for them, to provide effective response to allegations of abuse, and to provide pastoral outreach to victims and their families.
As a diocese, and as people of God, we continually strive to protect “the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” By our actions and by our words, we promise to do everything possible to follow the example of Jesus who welcomed children, and to bring His healing and caring presence to all victims of child abuse.
Child Protection Policy
The first policy for the protection of children in our diocese was created in 1994 and revised in 1999. The current Child Protection Policy was promulgated in March, 2003.
The diocesan policy is in complete compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons, developed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Child Protection Policy has been, and continues to be, distributed to all employees and volunteers in service in any parish, school or institution of the diocese, and to any interested person. Additionally, a Summary of Key Points has been published in a brochure format and widely distributed. Copies of these documents are available from the Chancery Office or on the diocesan website, www.doy.org.
Education & Implementation
The parishes, schools and institutions of the Diocese of Youngstown cooperate fully with implementation of the Child Protection Policy. All employees and volunteers receive a copy of the policy and commit to its provisions by signing a background questionnaire and applicant’s certification.
Employees and volunteers receive in-service training through a variety of resources and meetings. Those who work regularly with children are also fingerprinted. By these means, the Diocese of Youngstown strives to make all who work or volunteer in any form of ministry or service aware of the provisions of our policy, and provides opportunities for education in identifying and reporting abuse or suspected abuse.
Administrators receive helpful information and guidance for implementation of diocesan procedures. Any parish, school or group may request a meeting with the assistance coordinator or other diocesan representative.
The policy was printed in its entirety in the Catholic Exponent, and has its own link on the diocesan website, www.doy.org, making it available to a wide audience.
A special day-long clergy workshop held in June, 2002, and discussions at various meetings including the Fall 2002 Clergy Convocation addressed the topic.
The dedication and commitment of pastors, principals, teachers, catechists and all who minister to children of the diocese is evident by their diligence is assuring that all who minister in the diocese abide by the provisions of the Child Protection Policy.
The diocese has a good working relationship with the public Children’s Services agencies in the six counties of the diocese. The bishop continues to meet with the directors of these agencies in order to determine how the diocese and the agencies can mutually help each other to protect children.
These agencies have provided the diocese with their statistics on reported allegations of child sexual abuse. In the last 10 years, over 12,400 allegations were received by these agencies. To the best of our knowledge not one of these allegations involved a priest of this diocese. The numbers were helpful in comparing the total number of allegations with the allegations made against priests, and indicate that sexual abuse is a serious problem in society as a whole.
The diocese has cooperated fully with prosecutors in each of our six counties, providing, at our initiative, information relative to all past cases of child sexual abuse.
Diocesan Review Board
As required by the USCCB Charter and Norms, a Review Board was established in July, 2002, and held its first meeting on August 27, 2002. The Review Board is a consultative group whose purpose is to advise the bishop on matters relative to the sexual abuse of minors in the Church. Particular tasks include:
* review the diocesan Child Protection Policy to ensure that it is consistent with the Charter and Norms and the Code of Canon Law;
* assist the diocese with the full and fair implementation of the Policy and Charter;
* offer to the bishop recommendations regarding the status of priests who have been accused of incidents of sexual abuse – past, present or future;
* suggest ways in which the diocese can effectively respond to the scandal of sexual abuse; ways in which the Church can be reconciled and healed; ways in which the diocese can appropriately relate to the larger community in this matter.
Agenda items at review board meetings have included: discussion of the current situation, both on the diocesan and national level; review and revision of the Child Protection Policy; diocesan response to the scandal of abuse; relating to the community; reconciliation and healing; canonical requirements of the Norms; and plans for implementation of the policy. Additionally, the review board heard a presentation of past cases and current litigation in the diocese from diocesan legal counsel.
Members of the Diocesan Review Board are: Det. Sgt. Delphine Baldwin-Casey, Mary Butler, Sr. Nancy Dawson, Atty. Alan Kretzer, Sr. Ann McManamon, Dr. Ronald Mikolich, Msgr. Kenneth Miller, Kristina Murphy, Teresa Peach, Deacon Ronald Reolfi, Fr. Matthew Roehrig, Rev. Mark Williams and Thomas Wrenn. Msgr. John Zuraw, Executive Director of Clergy Services, and Nancy Yuhasz, Chancellor and Assistance Coordinator, are staff resource persons to the board.
The issue of sexual abuse of children by priests has made headlines in national and local news. In the Diocese of Youngstown, we have provided statistics on numbers of accused priests to the news media. Diocesan news is sent to over 70 media outlets in the six counties of the diocese, including television, radio and print media.
Parishes, schools and institutions of the diocese receive any new information, updates, etc. through a variety of means, including the Catholic Exponent; our monthly newsletter, Communique; and by letters and meetings.
A Review of Statistics
There are no priests in active ministry against whom an allegation of sexual abuse has been made.
During a review of clergy personnel files and from reports given to us, it was discovered that over the past 50 years, 19 priests serving in the Diocese of Youngstown had allegations of child sexual abuse made against them. During this 50-year period, 483 diocesan priests, approximately 370 religious order priests, and nine priests of other dioceses have served in the Diocese of Youngstown. These numbers indicate that 2% of the priests who served the diocese were accused of abuse.
We are not aware of any incidents of sexual abuse of children that have occurred in recent years in the Diocese of Youngstown. Of the allegations of past abuse, the most recent occurred 13 years ago. Other claims pre-date that by many years, in some instances as many as 50 years. Given the length of time that has passed, the nature and veracity of some of these allegations cannot be determined.
Of the 19 priests who have had allegations, four are deceased; four left ministry; two left to serve in other dioceses (with full disclosure to the receiving diocese) and are no longer in ministry; seven diocesan and one religious priest are retired; and one allegation was unsubstantiated.
Currently, litigation is pending in three cases. The diocese continues to cooperate with civil authorities and to fund therapy and counseling during pending litigation.
The Diocese of Youngstown, as part of our policy, offers spiritual and/or therapeutic counseling for alleged victims and their families. Between 1950-2003 approximately $200,000 has been paid for these services; and from 1950-1994 approximately $300,000 was paid in settlement of claims. These amounts were paid from the diocesan self-insurance fund. Beginning with our 1994 policy it has been diocesan practice not to offer settlements.
Audit & Study
Every diocese in the United States was required to undergo an audit of its child protection program. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops contracted with an independent firm, the Gavin Group, Inc., to conduct the audits. Teams of two auditors spent one week in each diocese. The results of the audits were released by the USCCB on January 6, 2004.
The audit for the Diocese of Youngstown took place in August, 2003, using a several page audit instrument. The auditors looked closely at our Child Protection Policy, reviewed documentation to support the questions of the audit instrument, and interviewed staff members, legal counsel, Review Board members, pastors and others.
We are very pleased to report that the Diocese of Youngstown was found to be in full compliance with the USCCB Charter and Norms. Additionally, the diocese received three commendations:
For the implementation of a far-reaching communications initiative reflecting a high degree of openness and transparency.
For the progressive development of a sexual abuse program in 1994 that included pastoral outreach and required background evaluations of diocesan personnel.
For the creation of a review board in 1994 and communicating the identity of board members to the public.
The USCCB also commissioned a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to try to determine the causes of child sexual abuse. This study required each diocese to complete a survey on each priest who had an allegation made against him, and the victim who made the allegation. The Diocese of Youngstown complied completely with the survey. The national results will be released by the USCCB on February 27, 2004.
The provisions of the Child Protection Policy are an on-going effort to keep our children safe. The policy will be reviewed and revisions made as needed. Education programs will help those involved in ministry to be more aware of policies and procedures.
Healing and reconciliation for victims, their families, and the accused will continue as important steps in restoring trust.
The Diocese of Youngstown will continue to do everything possible to ensure the safety of our children.
The protection of children will continue to be a priority in the days
and years to come. Let us all pray for “the greatest in the kingdom
of heaven,” that they may grow to be loving and faithful members
of the Church.
By Lou Jacquet
The update reports that a total of 19 priests – out of 483 diocesan priests and some 370 religious order priests who have served in the diocese in the past 50 years – have had allegations brought against them.
That number, about 2 percent of the number of priests who have served here, means the diocese has been extremely fortunate compared with many other dioceses in the United States which have had far higher numbers of alleged sexual abuse of minors by members of their clergy.
The update, in its entirety, can be found on Page 9 of this week’s Catholic Exponent.
“I think the numbers indicate again that we are talking about a very small percentage of priests who have had allegations against them involving sexual abuse of children and minors,” Bishop Thomas Tobin told the Catholic Exponent in a recent interview. “Given the length of time that has passed, the nature and truthfulness of some of these allegations really cannot be determined. Some of these cases we are talking about go back 40 or 50 years or more. Some of the priests involved in these allegations have been deceased for a long time. So it is very difficult to even substantiate the nature and the veracity of some of these claims. But the numbers themselves indicate that we are talking about a very low percentage of allegations.”
Bishop Tobin said he hopes diocesan Catholics will read the entire report and put the issue into perspective. “I think it is important to recognize the extent of the problem, and then to recognize the very sincere and good-faith effort of the Catholic Church in this country to deal with it,” he said. “Also, it is important that Catholics in our diocese recognize that in the Diocese of Youngstown the problem is not as severe as it has been in other places. I would also hope that people recognize the great work that our priests have done and continue to do, as well as the very good work that the Church does in many ways. In other words, I would hope that people deal with this seriously but keep it in context and in perspective.”
The update comes just as the national study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice – a report seeking to determine the causes of child sexual abuse, commissioned by the nation’s Catholic bishops – is due on Feb. 27. Expectations are that the Jay report will be exhaustive; it required each diocese to complete a survey on each priest who has had an allegation made against him. The results are sure to be covered extensively by the nation’s mainstream media. The net effect, most observers believe, will be a good deal of negative press for the Catholic Church in the United States in the coming days and weeks. Groups of survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy have criticized the Jay report even before it is released, despite the unprecedented effort by the U.S. bishops to shed light on this matter from a national and diocesan perspective. Bishop Tobin said:
“I think people who are open and honest and good-willed about this problem will see in the [Jay] report that the [U.S. Catholic] bishops have made a very good-faith effort to approach this problem honestly and completely. There are some people, perhaps, a radical fringe, who absolutely will not be satisfied with anything the bishops do, despite our very sincere efforts. In some cases, they are driven by other agendas and they want to keep the story alive.”
But while Catholics can expect negative press in the days ahead, they need to remain committed to the good things that the Church is accomplishing, Bishop Tobin said.
“First, we have to admit that there has been a serious problem with this terrible situation of sexual abuse by members of the clergy and the Church. We have to admit that. Secondly, we have to do our very best to keep these incidents in proportion and in proper context. We are talking about a relatively low number of allegations.” Beyond that, the bishop said, American society in general needs to deal with this issue. If the Church is rightly called to accountability in this area, so should every other sector of our society, he said.
“If we are really concerned about sexual abuse as a terrible crime, and a sin, we need to look at the problem in society in general and not just focus on the Catholic Church.” Numbers covered in the “Update” reflect that reality, he noted: The six children’s services agencies in the six counties of the Diocese of Youngstown “have received more than 12,400 allegations of sexual abuse in the last 10 years, and not one has involved a member of the clergy. What that says is that the Catholic Church is working hard to clean up its act, but that sexual abuse remains a very serious stigma in our society; if we are serious about the issue, we have to deal with it there. It’s not just a problem for the Church; it’s a problem for society. Our response to the problem in society will test our concern for this issue.”
Asked why no other institution in the United States has yet been held to the level of accountability on this issue that the Catholic Church has, Bishop Tobin said he believes there are several reasons. “First,” he said, “it’s because we tend to be more organized and monolithic. It’s easier to attack our whole system because we do have more of a hierarchical structure. Second, we have in some cases more resources, and people want to go after them. A third factor would be that some people are using this as leverage for their own agendas.”
The entire sexual abuse crisis in the Church has been “a very discouraging and trying situation at times,” Bishop Tobin acknowledged. “At the same time, I and the other bishops are very determined to rid the Church of this problem and to help victims and their families do everything we can to set things right. It has taken a sincere effort and a significant amount of time and energy, but for a most important cause.”
At the same time, the bishop said, he has been “highly determined that while we take this problem seriously in this diocese, we would not let it deter from the other work of the Church. We have too many good and important things going on in this diocesan church to stop everything and deal only with this problem. We dealt with it seriously and, I believe, effectively and compassionately. We will continue to do that. But we also have an awful lot of other things going on in this church that we will continue to promote.”
Every diocese in the country has been required to undergo an audit of
its child protection program. The “Update” notes that this
took place in the Diocese of Youngstown in August, 2003. The diocese was
found to be in full compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for
the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for
Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing With Allegations of Sexual Abuse of
Minors By Priests or Deacons.
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin says the incidence of sex abuse in the Catholic Diocese of Youngstown ``is not as severe as it is in some other places.''
Tobin's statement was contained in a letter released Thursday along with ``An Update on the Status of the Child Protection Policy'' in the diocese. The document included statistics that will be the focus of a national study on the extent of sexual abuse of minors by priests since 1950, which will be released Feb. 27 by John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.
The study will include a nationwide accounting of abuse claims and costs but will not break down statistics by individual dioceses. Bishops, however, are free to release local figures.
According to the Associated Press, more than 80 of the 195 dioceses -- including Youngstown -- have released their reports. At least 60, including the Diocese of Cleveland, plan to release their statistics by the end of the month.
The Youngstown report showed that none of the 19 priests accused of abusing children over the past 50 years is in active ministry. Of the 19, four are dead, four have left the ministry, eight have retired and two left to serve other dioceses that had been informed of the allegations. One allegation was unsubstantiated.
From 1950 to 2003, the diocese paid about $200,000 for counseling for victims and their families and from 1950 to 1994, it paid about $300,000 to settle claims. In 1994, when the diocesan policy on abuse was established, it became diocesan practice not to offer settlements. The money paid to victims came from insurance coverage.
The diocese is currently involved in lawsuits involving three cases.
The report shows the most recent allegation of abuse is 13 years old and the oldest dates back 50 years. Tobin said some of the most telling numbers in the report are those from public children's services agencies.
Those statistics show that in the past 10 years, more than 12,400 allegations were received by agencies in the six-county diocese, including Portage and Stark. None of those allegations involved a diocesan priest.
``This shows that it is not a Catholic problem,'' Tobin said. ``It's a community problem. It's a social problem.''
Tobin said he released the information to fulfill his commitment to ``openness and transparency'' and to show that the diocese has done its best to protect children.
``While the situation in the Diocese of Youngstown is not as severe as it is in some other places, we, too, have had some accusations of past incidents of sexual abuse,'' Tobin stated. ``And we know that even a single incident would be too many.''
John Gulling -- who has reported to the diocese that he was abused as a boy by former priest Robert M. Burns, when he was an associate pastor at St. Paul Church in North Canton 28 years ago -- said to measure the severity of the problem, you must go beyond the numbers.
``One of their biggest offenders (Burns) may have been one man but he cut a really wide swath,'' said Gulling, 38, of Canal Fulton.
In addition to the Stark County parish, claims against Burns have come from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Louisville and St. Rose parish in Trumbull County, where he was accused of molesting dozens of boys. Burns was placed on leave from the diocese in 1981 and went to the Boston area. About a decade later, he landed in prison on a conviction of child sex abuse.
Another diocesan priest, the Rev. John Hammer, resigned his post at St. Mary in Alma, Mich. in 2002 after allegations from the Youngstown area emerged. Hammer has admitted ``inappropriate sexual behavior'' when he served as a priest at St. Louis Church in Louisville.
Three men sued the diocese in 2002, claiming they had been abused by Hammer starting in 1979.
Tobin again apologized to the victims of abuse and said he is still willing to meet with anyone affected by the abuse.
In addition to the John Jay College study, a report on the causes and consequences of the abuse crisis is slated to be released on Feb. 27 by the National Review Board that was established by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.
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