Plain Dealer Story on Clergy Abuse Cases Limits Diocesan Response

Diocese of Cleveland
June 14, 2007

A Saturday, May 26, 2007 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper reviewed the status of local clergy who have been placed on administrative leave since March of 2002. The story neglected to offer the full response by the Diocese of Cleveland to the newspaper’s questions concerning these matters of clergy sexual abuse. Here is the full response.

Any report revisiting what has commonly been called the “clergy abuse scandal” should include a discussion of the concentrated efforts and improved processes over the past five years by the Church in the Diocese of Cleveland to deal with such matters. Those efforts and processes include:

Enhanced Victim Outreach

Pastoral care and counseling has been provided to all victims who came forward and would accept the assistance. The Diocese has a victim assistance coordinator to reach out to those in need and to facilitate the assistance. In addition, Bishops Pilla and Lennon have met with many victims, which has been an especially effective step in the healing process.

Counseling Assistance Fund for Abuse Survivors

The Diocese of Cleveland also participates in the Counseling Assistance Fund for Abuse Survivors as established by the Catholic Dioceses of Ohio. Administered independent of the Church, the fund has provided counseling or similar mental health services to persons who were sexually abused as minors by clergy or other representatives of the Catholic Church.

Virtus – Protecting God’s Children Program

Participation in the “Virtus – Protecting God’s Children” program is required of clergy and all employees and volunteers in all parishes and institutions, in all eight counties in the Diocese, who may come in frequent contact with children in Diocesan activities. More than 110,000 persons have been trained to recognize potential sexual abuse, abusers and inappropriate behavior of those involved in youth activities.

Enhanced Reporting Procedures

The Diocese of Cleveland and the State Counseling Fund maintain separate hot-lines that enable anyone to report abuse or seek counseling. The telephone numbers for the hot-lines are available on the Diocese website. In addition, the Diocese requires mandatory reporting to civil authorities of any allegations of sexual abuse of minors.

Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and The Essential Norms were established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The Charter and Essential Norms established protocols for responsible and transparent response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors. In March of 2007 the National Review Board released results of its audits of all dioceses in the United States . The outside, independent, professional audit showed that the Diocese of Cleveland was again found to be in complete compliance with the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Independent audits have established that the Diocese of Cleveland has been in Compliance with the Charter for four consecutive years.

Independent Review Board

The Diocesan Independent Review Board continues to function as the body that assesses allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy (past and present) in accordance with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Essential Norms and our Diocesan Policy for the Safety of Children in Matters of Sexual Abuse. The Review Board investigates allegations, evaluates the evidence, and advises the Bishop regarding recently reported past cases of abuse, as well as, any new cases.

Candidates for Ministry

Candidates for ministry are screened and evaluated by appropriate medical professionals to identify psychological issues and to assess psychosexual maturity, among other characteristics.

Standards of Conduct for Ministry

A new “Code of Conduct” for ministers in the Diocese of Cleveland has been established which includes a new protocol for clerics and all in ministry to follow when they are interacting with minors.

Concerning the priests who are currently on “administrative leave” as the result of past allegations of sexual abuse of a minor; Fathers Russell Banner, Raymond Bartnikowski, Gary Berthiaume, Donald Brickman, Joseph Brodnick, Joseph Labbe, Joseph Lieberth, Daniel McBride, Brendan J. McNulty, Patrick O’Connor, Anthony Rebol, Joseph Seminatore, James Viall and David Weber all remain on “administrative leave” as their cases have not been resolved and are under consideration by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

While on “administrative leave,” they are not permitted to wear clerical attire or exercise any public acts of priestly ministry. Consistent with Canon (Church) law, since the Diocese is required to provide a just remuneration to priests, they continue to receive salary and hospitalization until the final disposition of each priest’s case.

The cases of Fathers Alan Bruening, Joseph Lang and Edward Rupp have been decided by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican which has ordered that they be permanently removed from the ecclesiastical ministry. They are not permitted to celebrate Mass publicly or to administer the sacraments, wear clerical attire, or publicly present themselves as priests. Each is now confined to a life of prayer and penance as established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Essential Norms for Diocesan Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons #8b. They receive minimal support of a pension and hospitalization.

Former priests James Mulica, George Bailey, Dennis Wirks, Thomas Luckay and William McCool had long ago resigned from the priesthood and have no association with the Diocese. Father Ronald Tomicky is retired and on total and permanent disability which completely restricts his ministry.

Regarding the question of monitoring, the Diocese has no legal authority to restrict the freedom of those who are on administrative leave or those who have left the priesthood.

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