DIOCESE OF ALLENTOWN PA
My Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In recent weeks the Diocese of Allentown has completed specific mandates called for by the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by the Bishops of the United States in Dallas 17 months ago.
THE COMPLIANCE AUDIT
Article 8 of the Charter calls for "appropriate mechanisms to audit adherence to policies." This compliance audit was conducted in our Diocese in October at the direction of the National Review Board and the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The audit team consisted of two former FBI agents now employed by the Gavin Group Inc. of Winthrop, Massachusetts, which was commissioned by the National Review Board to perform the audits in each diocese. During their time in this Diocese they evaluated how effectively our Diocese is implementing the Charter.
To do this, the auditors examined pertinent documents and interviewed several people, including Diocesan Review Board members, law enforcement personnel, victims, pastors, and Chancery staff. The Diocese cooperated fully and provided the team with whatever information they requested.
The auditors awarded our Diocese a commendation for its adaptation of the "Healing the Body of Christ" program to facilitate the healing and reconciliation process for clergy and parishioners. A commendation means the program is something to be emulated by other dioceses. While the Diocese was found in basic compliance to the Charter, the auditors made two recommendations which, when implemented, would bring the Diocese into full compliance. The first recommendation was that the Diocese establish a code of conduct for its clergy, all employees and all volunteers and, second, that the Diocese expand its background evaluation program to include vendors and independent contractors. The Diocese has satisfactorily implemented both recommendations.
Thus according to the final audit report of November 4, 2003, the auditors concluded that the Diocese of Allentown is in full compliance with the provisions of the Charter. This is the highest category of compliance a diocese can receive. This determination that our Diocese is in full compliance is truly significant because it certifies that our Diocese currently employs an effective process to provide for the protection of children and young people and is effectively assisting alleged victims of sexual abuse by church personnel including clerics.
THE JOHN JAY STUDY
Article 9 of the Charter states, "The (National Review) Board will…commission a descriptive study…of the nature and scope of the (sexual abuse) problem within the Catholic Church in the United States including such data as statistics on perpetrators and victims." During the summer months, the Diocese of Allentown, along with every diocese in the United States, submitted this data to John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which was commissioned by the National Review Board to conduct this study.
The data submitted by the Diocese indicated that in the 42 years since the Diocese of Allentown was established, 773 diocesan priests have served here. Allegations of sexual abuse were made against 27 of those priests by 34 different people. The 27 priests who have been accused represent 3.5 percent of all the diocesan priests who have served this Diocese in its history. All but two of these allegations are about incidents that happened prior to 1988.
Two-thirds of the incidents were not made known to the Diocese until at least ten years after they are alleged to have happened. The District Attorneys of the five counties that constitute the Diocese have reviewed these allegations and determined that none of these incidents was prosecutable. They concluded there was no evidence that any diocesan official acted with criminal intent to either intimidate witnesses or victims, or to obstruct justice or hinder the prosecution of offending priests. Some of those priests against whom allegations have been made are deceased. None of those who are living is in active ministry.
We also submitted data indicating that from the foundation of the Diocese, insurance companies expended $781,250 in settlements with alleged victims of abuse. From its self-insurance program, the Diocese expended $268,750 on settlements with alleged victims, $222,512 on counseling for priests accused of abuse and $42,547 on counseling for victims.
The National Review Board will publish the results of these same two national studies in January and February. In January, the Review Board will release a national report on the audit with results specific to each of the 195 dioceses. In February, the report from John Jay College will include an aggregate number of priests, victims and expenditures from all dioceses in the United States. While these reports will be forthcoming, I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you in advance the data that pertains to our local Diocese. It is my understanding that the National Review Board will provide some demographic context related to the statistics of the John Jay College study. However, I have chosen not to provide any context for this local report to you only because the information requested of each diocese did not allow for any demographic contextualization.
No matter how fully our Diocese has complied with the Charter, there still remains a profound sorrow for the wounds inflicted upon some of our children and youth during the life of our Diocese.
I acknowledge that the responsibility ultimately rests with the Office of Bishop to ensure that there is operative in the Diocese a continuous endeavor to protect our children from sexual abuse by church personnel.
INVITATION TO VICTIMS TO COME FORWARD FOR HEALING
Finally, I want to take this occasion to once again invite any victims of clerical sexual abuse to come forward and to seek healing and pastoral assistance. Victims can contact our Victim Assistance Coordinator, Mrs. Barbara Murphy, at 610-791-3888. In accord with my past practice of meeting with victims, I continue to hold myself available to meet with any victim who desires such a meeting.
Asking your prayers and with an assurance of my own for all the people of our Diocese, I am
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The upcoming national survey of sex abuse claims against Roman Catholic priests has been viewed by CNN, which reported Monday that 11,000 abuse claims have been filed against the U.S. clergy during that period.
William J. Curtis Jr. of Bound Brook, N.J., a member of the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests who sits on a review board charged with assessing allegations of abuse in the Diocese of Metuchen, said he mistrusts reports from the bishops.
"They're still more concerned with public relations," he said of most Catholic dioceses, excluding Metuchen. "Their first concern is, 'How do we save face and keep this quiet?' "
The survey is being overseen by the National Review Board, a lay watchdog panel that the American bishops formed, and conducted by researchers from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
Juliann Bortz, co-chairwoman of SNAP in the Lehigh Valley, said she hopes the report convinces victims to share their stories.
"I know that there are more people out there. I know it because I get calls," said Bortz, who hears from victims on a weekly basis and encourages them to attend group meetings.
"Maybe this will help them understand this is bigger than they thought."
John Jay refused to comment on the CNN report, while board members contacted Monday by The Associated Press wouldn't say whether the latest statistics were accurate. They stressed the report is not finished and that any numbers tallied so far could change before the study is released Feb. 27.
Some individual dioceses, including the Diocese of Allentown, have released the abuse statistics they compiled for the national survey.
Since 1961, sexual abuse allegations have been made against 27 of the 773 priests who have served the Allentown Diocese, or 3.5 percent. Those accusations came from 34 people, the diocese reported.
It has spent more than $780,000 in settlements with victims of sexual abuse in the past 42 years. According to the diocese's figures, more than $222,000 was spent on counseling for priests, compared with less than $43,000 for victims' counseling.
Matt Kerr, spokesman for the Diocese of Allentown, deferred additional comment until the report is released officially.
The figures compiled by CNN are roughly in keeping with a trend the AP reported on last week.
Some individual dioceses have released the abuse statistics they compiled for the national survey, and the AP has been tracking those reports. Through Monday, 84 of 195 U.S. dioceses had reported claims -- with 1,413 clergy accused of abuse since 1950. That statistic is already much greater than the scope of abuse previously estimated by victims' groups and the media.
"I would hope that the public would kind of withhold any immediate judgment until they get the full story on Feb. 27th," said Leon Panetta, the former Clinton White House chief of staff and a National Review Board member.
Robert S. Bennett, a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney and another review board member, said survey drafts are circulating only among board members and John Jay researchers.
No bishops have seen the draft, said Bennett, who also is overseeing the board's investigation into the causes of the clergy abuse crisis. The results of that inquiry will also be released Feb. 27.
"Both the National Review Board report and the John Jay study are still in the process of being written," Bennett said. "People should wait until then to draw their conclusion."
The bishops commissioned the unprecedented study as part of a series of reforms meant to restore trust in their leadership. The 84 dioceses that released their statistics have reported 2,990 abuse claims so far.
CNN reported that the draft survey said 78 percent of those abused were between the ages of 11 and 17 and that more than half the accused priests had a single allegation filed against them.
It said the report blames the sex abuse crisis on the bishops' failure to grasp the gravity of the problem, their misguided willingness to forgive and their emphasis on avoiding scandal, among other things.
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