The Diocese of Stockton (“the Diocese”), which was established in 1962, encompasses the counties in the central valley and Mother Lode region of California. It consists of 33 parishes, 10 missions, and 12 elementary and two secondary schools, which serves a population of about 217,000 registered Catholics. There are 67 diocesan priests and 33 deacons. The Most Reverend Stephen E. Blair, installed as bishop in 1999, leads the Diocese. A compliance audit of the Diocese was conducted during the period of July 7-11, 2003.
The information presented below represents conditions as they were found to exist during the week of the audit. Information regarding necessary corrective actions taken by the Diocese subsequent to the audit will be found in the last paragraph.
To Promote Healing and Reconciliation
The Diocese has in place a prevention policy on sexual abuse of minors, and this policy provides for an outreach program designed to provide immediate pastoral care to victims/survivors and their families. No incidents of sexual abuse have been reported to the Diocese as occurring since June 2002. The Diocese has a victim assistance coordinator, Chancellor Sr. Barbara Thiella, who has extensive experience in education and pastoral work. A diocesan review board was established in November, consisting of two priests, one Catholic and one Orthodox, two attorneys, a psychologist, a physician’s assistant, a nurse, a social worker, a religious educator, two educators in human sexuality, a police commander, and one civic leader. A Recommendation was given, which suggested a written policy describing the size, composition, and term of this review board. The procedures for making a complaint of abuse are made known to the public through various means but were not readily available in printed and electronic form. A Recommendation was made suggesting the Diocese develop a written form for this process, describing the procedures for making a complaint. The Diocese has entered into no confidentiality agreements since June 2002.
To Guarantee Effective Response to
Allegations of Abuse of a Minor
The Diocese has had contact with local civil authorities regarding sexual abuse violations, and all allegations of abuse have been reported to them. No documentation of a procedure for advising victims/survivors of their right to report allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by a member of the clergy to civil authorities could be located, and a Recommendation was written suggesting that a written complaint form be developed that would include the fact that a victim has a right to report any allegations to civil authorities. The Diocese could not document a clear and well-publicized code of conduct for priests, deacons, and other adults who have regular contact with children, although the staff utilized guidelines found in the book Ethics in Pastoral Ministry, which had been distributed to all priests in a workshop on boundaries. A Recommendation was written suggesting the development of standards of conduct for all adults dealing with children and distribution of those standards. The Diocese has a communications policy reflecting a pledge to be open and transparent on issues regarding the sexual abuse of children.
To Ensure Accountability of Procedures
The Diocese has participated in the research study regarding the “nature and scope” of the problem of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.
To Protect the Faithful in the Future
The Diocese has a basic safe environment program and hired a training coordinator on June 23, 2003 to help to fully implement the plan. A Recommendation was written suggesting that these actions be taken as soon as possible. As mentioned above, the Diocese was advised of its need to adopt and publish standards of conduct for priests and deacons, as well as diocesan employees, volunteers, and any other church personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. The Diocese had a procedure in place that provided for the background evaluation of all school teachers and employees, and since 1993 background checks have been conducted for all priests. All employees and volunteers were not included in this procedure, and a Recommendation was written suggesting prompt implementation of this program. The Diocese has not transferred any priests or deacons who have had credible allegations of sexual abuse lodged against them to any other diocese for ministerial assignment or residence since June 2002. The bishop and the major superiors of any religious orders having a presence in the Diocese have coordinated their respective roles regarding issues of allegations of sexual abuse made against a cleric member of a religious institute. The Diocese has not had an opportunity to cooperate with other churches, religious bodies, and institutions of learning in conducting research in the area of sexual abuse of minors. The Diocese has established screening and evaluative techniques in the selection of candidates for ordination and established an ongoing formation program for priests.
Compliance with the Provisions of the Charter
At the conclusion of this audit, the Diocese of Stockton was issued five Recommendations.
RECOMMENDATION 1—That a written policy be established that sets forth the size, composition, term of service, and purpose of the diocesan review board, and that a printed form with instructions for taking complaints of sexual abuse be prepared and distributed.
RECOMMENDATION 2—That diocesan procedures for taking a complaint include instructions that the victim/survivor is to be advised that he or she has the right to make a report to civil authorities.
RECOMMENDATION 3—That standards of behavior and conduct be developed, articulated, and publicized.
RECOMMENDATION 4—That the plan for safe environment training should be finalized and implemented as soon as possible.
RECOMMENDATION 5—That background investigations of all diocesan and parish employees and volunteers should be implemented as soon as possible.
As of December 1, 2003, all Recommendations had been addressed. The Diocese of Stockton is found to be compliant with the provisions of the Charter as measured by the process described in Chapter 2 in Section I.
The compliance audit measured activity that has occurred since the adoption of the Charter in June 2002 with the exception of certain mandated actions found in Articles 5 and 14. Actions taken by the diocese/eparchy prior to June 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests and deacons are not included in this summary report.
Office of Child and Youth Protection
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-5413 | FAX: (202) 541-5410