Report States Diocese Is Meeting Reform Goals
By Michael Fisher
The Press-Enterprise [San Bernardino CA]
January 12, 2006
During the past 18 months, the Diocese of San Bernardino has trained nearly 59,000 adults and children on recognizing and preventing child sexual abuse, bringing the Inland diocese near full compliance with child-protection reforms mandated by Roman Catholic bishops in the United States.
The diocese, which underwent a voluntary audit of its programs last month, will have met all its requirements after it trains another 19,000 children and adults. The task is expected to be completed by the end of June, said Deacon Michael Jelley, who oversees the diocese's programs to protect children and aid abuse victims.
The review is part of an annual report commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to determine whether the nation's 187 dioceses and eparchies -- Eastern-rite dioceses -- are meeting the goals outlined in a sweeping charter approved by the bishops in June 2002, as they sought to cope with the clergy sexual-abuse scandal gripping the church.
The full report, which has been criticized by victims advocates as self-serving, is expected to be released in April, a conference spokesman said.
The reforms require dioceses to remove sexually abusive priests permanently, designate a person to assist molestation victims and create a confidential review board of mostly lay people to advise bishops on abuse allegations. Dioceses must report abuse accusations to civil authorities and not transfer accused clerics to others dioceses or parishes.
The diocese, which encompasses San Bernardino and Riverside counties, has been found in full compliance with the reforms during the previous two audits.
Jelley and diocesan officials said they were pleased by the findings, describing how they have worked over the past three years to cobble together a comprehensive plan to educate children, parents, clergy and parishioners about child safety and abuse prevention.
"We literally created a ministry where there was none," Jelley said. "It's been a pretty encouraging trip."
Jelley said he is working to develop a program to help train clergy and church workers on how to better counsel and respond to people who confide they were molested as children.
The auditors also found:
All 8,600 students in the diocese's 33 schools have received training.
More than 7,800 adults have been instructed on diocese safe-environment policies. Those adults included clergy, staff, educators and more than 4,800 volunteers who have regular contact with children.
The diocese has conducted 22,742 criminal background checks since 2002 for all clergy, paid staff, educators and volunteers who have regular contact with children.
As part of the work, Jelley said the diocese has encountered a number of adults who reported having been sexually abused as children by relatives or others. In response, the diocese coordinated four one-day counseling retreats for those victims.
"It's not a requirement, but it's something we felt we needed to do," Jelley said. "I think maybe it's God's requirement."
The audits, previously required by the bishops' group, were voluntary this year. Jelley said. Only about 21 of the 187 dioceses, including the San Bernardino Diocese, opted to be visited by the auditors as part of the 2005 review, while another 80 or so submitted self-evaluations, he said.
"We are of the opinion that the whole process of developing compliance with the charter is unfinished. ... We felt it important to take the step of having independent auditors tell us where we stand," Jelley said.
The Rev. Paul Granillo, assistant to Bishop Gerald Barnes, said the auditors' findings reflect the bishop's commitment to dealing openly with the clergy sexual-abuse crisis.
Reach Michael Fisher at (951) 368-9470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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