Bishop Accountability

Accused Priests: 6 (of which 1 priest, Paul Eichhoff, was "exonerated by the Diocesan Review Board in late 2002"; 1 convicted deacon, Morris Dale Vanderford, is not included in this count)
Total Priests: NA
Victims: 8 (not including 2 victims of the deacon mentioned above)
Cost: $229,706 (of which $144,800 in settlements with 2 victims of Vanderford; $6,051 for counseling and medication for victims; $15,415 for medical and psychiatric treatment for accused clerics; and $63,440 for legal fees)

Bishop fears clergy study fallout

By Bill Sherman
Tulsa (OK) World
February 18, 2004

A national look at child abuse among Catholic clergy members could be staggering, he warns.

Tulsa's Catholic bishop is apprehensive about the release next week of the most comprehensive national study ever conducted on clerical child abuse.

The study will incorporate fig ures for the Diocese of Tulsa, which covers eastern Oklahoma: seven clergy members accused of abuse; 10 victims; and payments of more than $200,000 for victims, counseling, legal services and medical treatment.

The study, in two reports, was commissioned by U.S. bishops in the wake of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church.

"I do not know yet what they contain, but I fear the worst," said the Most Rev. Edward J. Slattery, bishop of the Tulsa Diocese.

"I am afraid that when these reports are published, the number of accused priest and deacon perpetrators will stagger us, . . . and the sum total of their victims will be greater than anything we could have imagined," he said.

The so-called John Jay Study Report will quantify the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy members from 1950 until 2002. It was prepared independently by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York, compiling information from each of the 195 Catholic dioceses and eparchies in the nation.

Slattery said the report will not contain a diocese-by-diocese breakdown of abuse.

However, Henry Harder, chancellor of the Diocese of Tulsa, this week made public the information the diocese provided to national investigators conducting the study.

Harder said that from the formation of the diocese in 1973 until 2002, seven clergy members have been accused of child abuse, with 10 victims.

One of those seven -- the Rev. Paul Eichhoff -- was exonerated by the Diocesan Review Board in late 2002 and continues to pastor St. Cecilia's Catholic Church in Claremore, Harder said. Another -- Deacon Morris Dale Vanderford -- was convicted of abusing two boys at St. Cecilia's in 1989. He died in prison.

His victims were paid $100,000 and $44,800.

Harder would not disclose the names of the other five accused clergy members but said that none of them is in active ministry.

The diocese also reported payments of $6,051 for counseling and medication for victims, $15,415 for medical and psychiatric treatment for accused clerics, and $63,440 for legal fees, Harder said.

He said the diocese has paid other settlements for abuse by nonclergy personnel that were not included in the John Jay Study Report.

The Tulsa Diocese has taken many steps in the last two years to ensure the safety of children, Slattery said, including establishing the review board to handle accusations against clergy members, providing outreach to victims, establishing a code of conduct for clergy members and employees, screening people who work with children, and creating training programs for parents and others.

On Jan. 20, Slattery signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" with members of the District Attorney's Task Force on Crimes Against Children, pledging mutual cooperation and coordination in response to allegations of child abuse.

"I'm pleased with what the diocese has done, but we can never say we're finished," Slattery said. "We have to be constantly vigilant. We can never say we've done all we can do.

"We won't have credibility as bishops and as the church until the public believes we take the safety of children seriously."

Bill Sherman 581-8398



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