Abuse Prevention Program Requires Commitment

By Charles Honey
Grand Rapids Press
March 8, 2008

GRAND RAPIDS — It takes a lot of record-keeping and time, but the Grand Rapids Catholic Diocese's Child and Youth Protection abuse-prevention program is well worth it, the Rev. Mark Przybysz says.

"We were all taught as kids not to take candy from strangers or get in a car with somebody," said Przybysz, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Grand Rapids. "This is just a reinforcement of that and going to a new level."

The 11-county diocese spent $66,000 on the program last year, up from $48,500 in 2006, according to a national report released Friday.

The diocese spent another $37,500 on counseling for sexual-abuse survivors, down from $48,500 in 2006.

The annual review by U.S. Catholic bishops also found the Grand Rapids Diocese received four new sexual-abuse allegations against three former priests last year.

Already removed

The accused priests previously were removed from ministry, and the allegations are of incidents between 35 and 50 years ago, said Mary Haarman, diocesan spokeswoman.

They include Michael McKenna, who was removed in 2006; Louis Baudone, removed in 1993; and Stanislaus Bur, who once served in Grand Rapids but was removed by the Saginaw Diocese. Bishop Walter Hurley removed McKenna for credible allegations he had abused more than one boy in the 1970s. The allegations against Baudone date from the early 1970s and against Bur from the 1950s, Haarman said.

Additional resources

Friday's report shows the diocese continued to increase spending on its safe-environment programs, which include background checks on any employees or volunteers who come in contact with children in churches and schools. About 8,000 people have gone through the program, Haarman said.

Monsignor William Duncan, who oversees the program, said there continues to be an increasing commitment in strengthening the program.

"We see ourselves as one resource in a community-wide effort to help families grow in that understanding and awareness," he said.

Ten dioceses were found non-compliant with the U.S. bishops' requirements for abuse-prevention programs. They include the Archdiocese of Boston, where some parishes refused to teach children about inappropriate touching by adults because they felt the material was too explicit.

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