Audit finds diocese in full compliance with sex abuse Charter

Hawaii Catholic Herald [Diocese of Honolulu HI]

September 1, 2021

By Patrick Downes

An audit conducted in July found the Diocese of Honolulu in full compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the set of procedures the bishops established in 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.

A letter dated Aug. 11 to Bishop Larry Silva from StoneBridge Business Partners Inc., the independent third-party organization contracted by the U.S. bishops to conduct diocesan audits, stated that “the Diocese has been found compliant with all audited Articles within the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ for the audit period of July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2021.”

The Charter, which has been revised several times, includes guidelines for creating safe environments for children and young people, reconciling victims, responding promptly to allegations, cooperating with civil authorities, disciplining offenders and preventing future acts of abuse.

An audit is done every three years. The conclusions were based mainly on interviews with Diocese of Honolulu personnel and a review of answers to the “U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2021 Audit Instrument,” a survey of 62 questions based on the Charter.

Kristin Leandro, diocesan Safe Environment director, coordinated the virtual site visit. The pandemic necessitated the normally in-person audit to be conducted via Zoom and email.

StoneBridge auditors Courtney Schenkel and Thom Englert conducted more than 20 interviews July 20-22.

Those interviewed included Bishop Larry Silva, Leandro, vicar general Msgr. Gary Secor, director of the permanent diaconate Deacon Michael Weaver, the judicial vicar Father Mark Gantley, the director of vocations Father Joseph Diaz and the vicar for clergy Father Gregorio Honorio.

Also interviewed were six members of the Diocesan Review Board, the 12-person group that advises the bishop on the handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by clergy and other church personnel.

The auditors also spoke to the superintendent of Catholic Schools, the diocesan attorney, the diocesan victim assistance coordinator and staff at Immaculate Conception Parish in Lihue, Maria Lanakila Parish and Sacred Hearts School, both in Lahaina, and St. Anthony Parish and School in Kailua.

The audit instrument included such questions as

“Did the diocese provide outreach to the victims?”

“Did the diocese extend to victims and their families an offer to meet with the bishop and/or his representative since the date of the last on-site audit?”

“Does the diocese have policies and procedures which include prompt responses to allegations?”

“Has the diocese cooperated with public authorities about reporting cases when the person is no longer a minor?”

“Are all those clerics in the diocese who have committed an act of sexual abuse against a minor permanently removed from ministry?”

The Diocese of Honolulu requires safe environment training of all clergy, diocesan and parish and school employees, and background checks for church personnel who work with children and youth. The diocese has nearly 1,200 persons on its payroll, plus many volunteers.

The diocese also has a victim assistance coordinator, Lora Daniel, a licensed mental health counselor at Catholic Charities Hawaii who is available by hotline to counsel and support victims and to take proper action.

Each parish in the diocese also has a safe environment liaison to ensure that diocesan policies are followed.

Leandro said the audit was during a period of time when clergy sex abuse was again making headlines.

“Reports in June 2018 that Theodore McCarrick had been removed from ministry due to the apparent sexual abuse of a minor, followed by the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report in August 2018, were painful reminders that we cannot become complacent with our safe environment efforts,” Leandro said.

“The events of 2018 generated a sense of urgency for many bishops, which brought about improvements in policies and procedures and strengthened efforts in providing support to victims and survivors,” she said.

They also pointed to the importance of having an audit, she said.

However, Leandro said, “what is most important in healing the church and safeguarding all within its care is building a culture of protection and healing, grounded in Christ’s love for us all.”