Second audit to review diocesan abuse policies

Friday, August 13, 2004 - Updated: 12:01 am
Robert P. Lockwood, General Manager
For the second time in less than a year, independent investigators will conduct an on-site audit of the Diocese of Pittsburgh for compliance with the U.S. bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and the Essential Norms that accompanied the charter.

The charter and norms were approved at the bishops national meeting in Dallas in June 2002 to establish national standards for child sex abuse prevention policies in each diocese.

Last October, the diocese was specifically commended for what had been done here to comply with those policies.

Diocesan leadership, public outreach, administrative and personnel policies, procedures and implementation are of such high standards as to warrant commendation and reference as best practices, the audit team reported.

An independent audit of each diocese in the United States is required as part of the U.S. bishops response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal.

The U.S. bishops approved this second round of on-site audits during their June 2004 national meeting in Denver.

In the first audit, nearly 90 percent of U.S. Catholic dioceses were at that time in compliance with the bishops national policies.

The second audit will take place Aug. 16-20 in Pittsburgh, 10 months after the first audit was conducted.

The diocese will be the first diocese in the United States to have this second audit.

The U.S. bishops Office for Child and Youth Protection, charged by the bishops with monitoring implementation of the charter, conducted the 2003 audits and will do so again this year.

The National Review Board, established by the bishops in June 2002, oversees the audit, while the independent firm of Gavin Group from Boston conducts the actual on-site audit.

The findings of the audit are released to the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and are expected to be published in January after the national audit is concluded.

Justice Anne Burke, interim chairwoman of the National Review Board, stated that the message is clear in the bishops willingness to undertake a second outside audit.

Children will be safe from harm in the Catholic Church, Burke, an Illinois appellate court judge, said, and the bishops and lay people will work together on this.

Among the requirements the bishops outlined in the charter are that each diocese establish an independent review board to consider suitability for ministry after allegations of sexual abuse among clergy, that a victim outreach coordinator be in place, that background investigations be conducted on church employees and volunteers who work with children, and that the diocese s sex abuse policies be published and disseminated.

Under the direction of Bishop Donald Wuerl, the diocese has had a review board and a victim outreach coordinator in place well before the bishops approved the charter.

The diocese has also had a strong public record of responding to accusations of clergy sexual misconduct and has had published policies in place since 1993. Those policies are regularly revised, with the last revision in August 2003.

Copies of the Policy on Clergy Sexual Misconduct are available from the Department for Communications, Diocese of Pittsburgh, 111 Boulevard of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. The policy is also on the diocesan Web site at www.diopitt.org.

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People called on every diocese to promote healing and reconciliation with victims of sexual abuse of minors, guarantee an effective response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors, ensure the accountability of procedures dealing with abuse and to protect the faithful in the future.

At the end of the charter, the bishops pledged most solemnly to one another and to you, God s people, that we will work to our utmost for the protection of children and youth.

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