Archdiocesan Review Board summarizes its deliberations

By Judge Michael J. Talbot, et al.
Posted on the Website of the Archdiocese of Detroit
February 2004

Dear Cardinal Maida,

In September of 2002, you formally constituted the Archdiocesan Review Board mandated by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. This board replaced the previous committee that had served since 1992 and had reviewed allegations of sexual abuse involving priests, deacons and other Church personnel.

The charge to the board was to serve as an advisory body: 1) to assist you in the assessment of and making recommendations regarding all allegations brought to the archdiocese concerning the sexual abuse of minors involving a priest, deacon, or other church personnel; 2) to make follow-up recommendations in particular cases where an allegation has been brought forward; and, 3) to review every two years the policy and make recommendations for change or modification. In addition, the board was to review various annual reports to be submitted in accord with the newly revised policy.

The board has met regularly, ordinarily on a monthly basis, to carry out its responsibilities. At a time when the National Review Board is issuing its findings, the archdiocesan board thought it appropriate to provide you with this status report with the thought that it might be helpful to share its contents with others.

The board reviewed all allegations involving priests and others that were brought forward. In reviewing these allegations, the investigative services of civil authorities were utilized and, in certain situations, where there was no civil investigation, the services of a private investigator were retained. In every instance, the board noted that each allegation was reported to civil authorities. Any accused or victim that wished to meet with the board was invited to do so; assistance to victims was facilitated by the Victim Assistance Coordinator. Ongoing contact and communication with the accused is coordinated by your delegate to the board and by the Office for Priestly Life and Ministry.

The results of the investigations during the tenure of the board resulted in seven priests being placed on administrative leave, being prohibited the exercise of any public ministry, prohibited from wearing clerical garb and publicly identifying themselves as priests. In all of these cases, further action under Church law is possible. As you acted upon our recommendations, the names of priests removed from ministry were identified. This, in certain instances, encouraged other victims to come forward. The board also provided recommendations to you on earlier cases, where priests had been previously removed.

The board continues its work and is committed to review and make recommendations to you on all allegations brought forward; victims' complaints, whenever and however they come to us, are handled in a timely and sensitive fashion.

It is also the view of the board that the archdiocese has taken a number of very positive steps to provide for the safety of children and young people:

1. The revised archdiocesan policy regarding matters of sexual abuse has been recognized as a model and we are pleased to have been part of its formulation. It has been published and distributed in booklet form and is also available, along with other helpful resources, on the Archdiocese of Detroit website at
2. Our response efforts continue to be developed by our Victim Assistance Coordinator with resource support from Catholic Social Services of Oakland County. A toll-free line, (866) 343-8055, has been established to assist victims and report allegations.
3. The bishops of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference successfully lobbied for a change in state law that now requires Michigan clergy to report to the state any suspected child abuse or neglect that is learned outside of the sacrament of reconciliation.
4. The archdiocese continues to report to local county prosecutors all allegations of abuse by clergy that become known to us, whether or not they appear to have merit.
5. The archdiocese requires criminal background checks be made of all employees and volunteers who work with or have unsupervised contact with children, the elderly or persons with disabilities. Some 16 workshops have been conducted to train 390 parish and school representatives to assist with this process. The background checks have been completed in many parishes, schools and agencies and soon will be underway in all others.
6. The archdiocese has arranged to have the Virtus program, Protecting God's Children, conducted in the archdiocese to create a safe environment for all. Completion of this program is expected for all archdiocesan employees and volunteers including bishops, priests, deacons, teachers, catechists, youth ministers and all volunteers who work with children. It is anticipated that over 5,000 people will have received this training in abuse prevention by April of 2004.
7. The board continues to receive reports of other activities in protecting children and young people as required by archdiocesan policy.

We believe that people of goodwill should see our letter as a sign of hope and the continuing commitment of the archdiocese and the board in an ongoing effort to protect our children and young people and to teach all about the prevention of abuse.

The past two years have been challenging for Catholics. As a board, we pledge to be as sensitive as we can to the pain that members of our local church are experiencing. To that end, it must be stressed that no one who has been a victim of abuse should ever hesitate to come forward, regardless of the passage of time, particular circumstances, or any hesitation up to this point. We urge all victims to come forward. They will be heard.

The Archdiocesan Review Board's members regard it as a privilege to serve at this difficult time and pledge our continued efforts to work on behalf of the people of the archdiocese. We are grateful for your personal support and the confidence and trust you have placed in us as members of this board. We ask your continued prayers for our efforts.

Respectfully submitted,

Judge Michael J. Talbot
Chair Robert Asmussen
Nancy J. Diehl
Judge Louis E. Fairbrother
Father Ronald Jozwiak
Patricia M. Moylan, Ph.D.
Jeanne A. Riesterer

February 2004


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