Posts Tagged USCCB
The USCCB’s 2021 Annual Compliance “Audit”
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on August 15, 2022
The victims of these historical allegations are now adults and their abuse occurred in decades past. Delayed disclosure of child sex abuse is a common phenomenon when survivors wait for years, even decades, before disclosing to others that they have been victims of childhood sexual abuse.From article in Voice of the Faithful’s “In the Vineyard” e-newsletter, August 15, 2022
USCCB has released its 2021 Annual Report: Findings & Recommendations on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (aka Charter Compliance Audit). The USCCB Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection released the so-called audit on July 12, 2022. The Annual Audit Report aims to measure diocesan compliance with the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children. The Charter was adopted in 2002 by the U.S. bishops following widespread reports of clergy abuse and has been revised in 2005, 2011, and 2018. The fourth revision is forthcoming.
This iteration of the annual report is based on the audit findings of StoneBridge Business Partners and is available for viewing (2021 Annual Report). Note that it is dated MAY 2022 and covers the audit year of July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021.
This most recent audit reveals new cases of sexual misconduct by priests. Although there were few reports of new cases during this audit period, 30 new and substantiated allegations nationwide have been reported. Of the 30 new allegations involving minors, six were derived from four different dioceses. Nine other allegations are still under investigation; nine were unsubstantiated; five could not be proven; and one was referred to the provincial of a religious order. The Preface to the report indicates that offenders in substantiated allegations were removed from ministry and that “every” allegation was reported to law enforcement.
The number of allegations that are historical in nature still remained high during this audit period: 3,073. However, this number is 1,149 less than the number of historical allegations reported in the 2020 report. The victims of these historical allegations are now adults and their abuse occurred in decades past. Delayed disclosure of child sex abuse is a common phenomenon when survivors wait for years, even decades, before disclosing to others that they have been victims of childhood sexual abuse.
The 2021 Audit process had been modified because the 2020 Audit report found dysfunction in diocesan review boards (DRB). The new audit format allowed for gathering more information on Charter requirements for DRB membership, DRB composition, DRB functions, and scheduled meetings. This audit included interviews of all or most DRB members from dioceses and eparchies that were visited personally by the auditors.
Article 2 of the Charter requires lay-run review boards that function as a confidential consultative body to the bishop or eparch. There were four instances of noncompliance with Article 2 of the Charter in this report: the Diocese of Corpus Christi, TX; the Diocese of Lafayette, LA; the Diocese of New Ulm, MN; and the Eparchy of Newton.
These instances of noncompliance found in the 2021 Audit correspond with diocesan scores obtained on the 2022 VOTF Protection of Children Survey (VOTF POC Report 2022): Corpus Christi TX and Lafayette LA each received zero points in the DRB category; and New Ulm, MN received only 5 out of a possible 18 points in the category.
Auditors report that 192 dioceses and eparchies participated in the 2021 audit process but four did not participate. Although COVID-19 presented challenges to onsite visits, auditors completed 70 “onsite” audit visits: 35 dioceses were physically visited and 35 additional dioceses and eparchies were “visited” virtually. Data were collected from 122 other dioceses and eparchies and were included in this report.
Chapter 3 of this Report contains statistical survey data compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA). One data set indicates a decrease of funds spent by dioceses and eparchies on costs related to allegations of clergy abuse for the fiscal year 2021. The grand total of those specific costs for fiscal year 2021 ($194,120,218 ) was 38% or $117,860,448 less than the grand total of those specific costs for fiscal year 2020 ($311,980,666).
StoneBridge Partners mentions additional child protection actions that can be taken by dioceses and eparchies that go beyond the specific requirements of the Charter. These include regular or “as needed” parish and school location audits by all dioceses and eparchies. The audit firm suggests the inclusion of visits and audits of parish and school during their onsite visits, especially within a diocese or eparchy that does not conduct their own audits. These actions would require instituting formal processes to periodically review documentation and compliance assessment with safe environment requirements. VOTF strongly supports the institution of formal diocesan and eparchial site visits to supplement the self-audit reports completed by parish and school locations.
Another suggestion found in the StoneBridge comments section in Chapter 2 of the Report calls for implementing a policy for renewal of safe environment training for all clergy, employees, and volunteers on a periodic basis. Such a policy change towards mandated, periodic abuse prevention training emphasizes the necessity for ongoing prevention training. Periodic re-training can provide new information regarding the protection of children that has been developed from the last time participants were trained. Also suggested by the auditors is to set a time frame for periodic background check renewals. The 2022 VOTF Child Protection Survey report suggests that this be an annual process to ensure capturing the most up-to-date background information on those working and volunteering with minors.
The Conclusion section in Chapter One comments on evidence that abuse prevention work and ministry must be ongoing to ensure youth safety and victim assistance. While many audit findings and comments indicate the need to bolster safe environments and child and youth protection efforts, the overall report does indicate progress and improvement in these efforts.
Responses to VOTF’s 2022 VOTF Child Protection Survey from dioceses and bishops have been encouraging in this regard. Many dioceses and eparchies continue to look for suggestions and resources that will improve child safety efforts. Online resources and support continue to be provided by the Secretarial of Child and Youth Protection to assist dioceses and eparchies in their ministry to victims and to bolster safe environment training and education.
By Patricia T. Gomez, Ph.D., Co-chair, Voice of the Faithful Protection of Children Working Group
In closing Catholic News Service, U.S. bishops undermine their pastoral work / National Catholic Reporter
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, church reform, Pope Francis, Voice of the Faithful on May 12, 2022
So many of the Catholic media outlets that are opposed to Francis and Vatican II exist only to promote their views, not to report, write, edit and publish Catholic news, and the truth as we can best ascertain it.By David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter
“That Catholic News Service was the first to report on its own demise was both a tribute to the legacy of the 102-year-old outlet’s editorial independence and perverse proof of what a bone-headed decision the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops made in opting to gut CNS.
“The May 4 announcement that effectively shutters CNS’ domestic operations eliminates a rare source of credibility for the hierarchy, a critical tool for reliably informing American Catholics about the church beyond their own diocese, and a counterwitness to the proliferation of ideologically driven Catholic media platforms that are driving the church apart, and regular Catholics around the bend — often right out of Catholicism.
“According to the news service, staffers were told that the core operations in Washington and New York were to be shuttered and that only the Vatican bureau would be retained. (CNS also wrote that USCCB Publishing, which holds the rights to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the U.S. Adult Catechism and many other books, will cease its publishing operations at the end of 2022.) How even that isolated remnant in Rome can actually work, or whether it will survive, remains to be seen, as they say in television.”
By David Gibson, National Catholic Reporter — Read more ...
A Voice of the Faithful Retrospective: 20 Years of Work on Protection Our Children
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in church reform, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on March 28, 2022
Voice of the Faithful marks its 20th year in 2022 and is offering a series of articles about who we are and what we do. The following is by Patricia T. Gomez, Voice of the Faithful Trustee and Co-Chair Protection of Children Working Group.March 28, 2022
Twenty years have passed since the public exposé of clergy sexual abuse within the Catholic Church by the Boston Globe Spotlight Team. And it is 20 years since the foundation of Voice of the Faithful and the Protection of Children Working Group in response to those revelations.
Immediate reaction to the horror of child abuse within our church spurred us into action: listening to victims’ stories, supporting victims of clergy abuse in their journey of recovery, and working to create and maintain safe environments for children and vulnerable adults in our faith communities. The Protection of Children (POC) working group continues its mission to ensure safety of children today; in the past few years members have been working on an analysis of diocesan safe environments by reviewing diocesan website postings.
Early in the history of VOTF the POC team identified the ongoing need to raise awareness and educate adults and children on abuse prevention measures in parish communities. We worked with local and national organizations to promote abuse prevention training. Over the years POC members engaged in conversations with many abuse prevention organizations, including consultations with the chairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ National Review Board on dispersing prevention information and tips for parents and adults on perpetrator grooming behaviors.
We also consulted with researchers at the University of New Hampshire Crimes Against Children Research Center. Through these and other efforts we came to understand that, to truly protect children in our parish communities, changes must occur at the local level. To that effect, the POC team created helpful hints to aid parishes in education and awareness efforts. Our Safety Sunday project, for example, provides short tips for publication in parish bulletins, especially during the month of April, which has been designated National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Many parish safe environment coordinators have continued to utilize the resources found on our Child Protection webpages.
Maintaining safe environments in our parishes is a strong prevention measure against potential abuse, but in recent years POC members have noted a de-emphasis on this key program. This de-emphasis diverts us from the shame and horror that abuse of children occurred and persisted for so many years in our churches. Timely reminders to remain vigilant are needed. For example, the annual observance in April of National Child Abuse Prevention month in the United States should be promoted in every diocese as a reminder of the ongoing necessity to protect the children and the vulnerable among us. Does your diocese promote this annual observance?
The responses of many bishops to cases of clergy sexual abuse over the past 20 years were designed to protect the institution at the expense of sacrificing the well-being of victims of clergy abuse. But ultimately such posturing has sacrificed the image and future of the institution. Clergy sexual abuse still resonates within the Church today because the faulty structures that allowed this abuse to occur and to be covered up still exist. The fact is: the institution has been damaged. It is time for the hierarchy to be held accountable to their own mandates for safe environments and abuse prevention measures. And it is time to enforce diocesan standards of prevention and safe environments in our parishes.
What can you do? The POC team encourages you to look into abuse prevention measures posted on your diocese’s website. Are these measures comprehensive and carried out in your parish or faith community? It is time for us in the pews to evaluate diocesan child protection measures to determine whether they are lived out in local parish communities.
During this month of April, dedicated to educate and raise awareness of the need to protect children from predators in every environment, VOTF members recall our outrage at the injustice served on victims of clergy sexual abuse, their families, and communities. We recall the shame we feel at the failure of leadership to protect our children. We support the call from Hans Zollner, S.J., president of the Centre for Child Protection in Rome, for forceful implementation of changes in church law introduced by Pope Francis and his predecessors, especially the 2019 motu propio, Vos Estis Lux Mundi (America Magazine, Feb 4, 2022).
We also call for the enforcement of standards set in the U.S. bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests or Deacons. And we call for change in the faulty structures and attitudes that foment clericalism, especially the insular and authoritarian culture fostered in many dioceses.
VOTF has focused on supporting survivors, promoting parish safe environment efforts, and calling for structural change in the governance of the Church for 20 years. And our work continues!
Following the example of the VOTF Finance Working Group, the most recent work by the POC Working Group investigated how the church as institution presents its efforts to prevent abuse and responds to those abused. Over the past three years, the POC team developed a comprehensive set of questions for reviewing diocesan websites to assess efforts of bishops in every diocese. We recently completed the website review for diocesan Child Protection and Safe Environment efforts and scored performances of the 177 dioceses in the U.S. A link to the detailed findings from that review will be available shortly on the VOTF’s Child Protection webpage.
Ongoing Child Protection Efforts
Results of our review indicate the need to enhance diocesan child protection policies and safe environment measures. Actions by all are essential to keep children safe in our church communities:
- Clearly stated, publicly available, and comprehensive diocesan guidelines for safe environments provide measurable standards that can be modeled in parishes and are essential to prevent further child abuse.
- The USCCB can more frequently update their Charter and Norms.
- The USCCB National Review Board should more closely monitor compliance with the bishops’ own standards for child protection by augmenting annual audits.
VOTF will continue to monitor diocesan child protection measures on an annual basis.
Parishioners have a key role in ensuring the protection of children in our parishes. We need to work with diocesan and parish safe environment personnel to bolster child protection guidelines at the diocesan level and ensure that safety measures are carried out in their faith communities. Alive in the life of Jesus, the entire People of God can transform into a sacramental community where children, youth, and the vulnerable are nurtured and protected in safe environments.
20 years after Spotlight investigation of Catholic sex abuse crisis, is the church a safer place? / America: The Jesuit Review
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Priests, Vatican, Voice of the Faithful on January 6, 2022
On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” (By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops)
Visit votf.org to read about the multitude of programs and initiatives undertaken by Voice of the Faithful in the 20 years since The Boston Globe Spotlight articles prompted the organization’s founding.
“The events of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol caused shock and dismay for most Americans, many of whom feared that our political system was much weaker than we had thought. On the same date nearly two decades earlier, we witnessed a similar crisis of confidence in the Catholic Church as a protector of all children.
“On Jan. 6, 2002, on the Feast of the Epiphany, The Boston Globe published the first in a series of reports from its Spotlight investigative team, headlined “Church allowed abuse by priest for years.” While the findings were not a surprise to abuse survivors, the revelations that a previously unknown number of priests in the Boston area had sexually abused minors for decades devastated Catholics in Boston and, ultimately, the faithful around the world. The Globe had learned that instead of removing many of these offenders from the priesthood, church leaders had transferred some of the men to new assignments—where the priests continued to have unsupervised access to boys and girls and had not been provided with psychological evaluation or treatment.”
By Kathleen McChesney, former F.B.I. executive and first executive director of the Office of Child Protection for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops — Read more …
Why the ‘Metropolitan Plan’ doesn’t work — Exhibit A: Bishop Bransfield / Commonweal
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Clergy Sexual Abuse, Vatican, Voice of the Faithful on July 9, 2019
As if by an act of divine providence, however, the first trial run of a metropolitan-centered strategy to contain abusive bishops has provided a spectacular public demonstration of how this plan can fail. The case I am referring to, of course, is that of Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who has been suspended from ministry over multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of diocesan funds. (Commonweal)
The now-glaring weakness of the USCCB’s 2002 Dallas Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was that it made no provision for dealing with bishops who engage in sexual misconduct. In the wake of the scandal surrounding Theodore McCarrick, who had escaped the consequences of his abuses for decades, the American bishops realized this gap had to be closed. Without some mechanism for holding bishops accountable, the trust that the hierarchy hoped to rebuild after the devastating revelations of clergy abuse of children could never be achieved.
“In the course of discussions in the months following the McCarrick revelations, two proposals emerged: an independent lay-run board could investigate a bishop and report to Rome, or a case could be referred to the metropolitan bishop of the region (a metropolitan is the bishop of the chief see of an ecclesiastical province, usually an archdiocese), who would oversee the investigation and send his findings to Rome. In either case, the pope would make a final determination of the fate of the bishop.
“Not surprisingly, the latter option (first proposed by Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago) was the one favored by most American bishops and the Vatican. It decentralizes the work of investigating accusations. It avoids thorny practical questions about who chooses the members of the lay board. And, critically, it sidesteps the canonical ‘problem’ of lay people in the church being placed in a position of authority over bishops.
“The guidelines issued this spring by Pope Francis endorsed the ‘metropolitan plan.’ At their June meeting in Baltimore, the American bishops adopted it, though with some debate over whether lay involvement in the process should be mandatory or optional. They made it optional.
“As if by an act of divine providence, however, the first trial run of a metropolitan-centered strategy to contain abusive bishops has provided a spectacular public demonstration of how this plan can fail. The case I am referring to, of course, is that of Bishop Michael Bransfield of the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, who has been suspended from ministry over multiple allegations of sexual harassment and misuse of diocesan funds.”
By Rita Ferrone, Commonweal — Read more …
Two decades into crisis, no consensus on what ‘credibly accused’ means / Cruxnow.com
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on January 3, 2019
When it comes to clerical sexual abuse, she (Professor Cathleen Kaveny of Boston College’s law school and theology department) noted that it’s particularly complicated because “we’re forced to ask ‘do we need something other than the sheer testimony of the victim?’ and if so, what?” (cruxnow.com)
In a recent interview with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), DiNardo was asked about a pledge that all dioceses in Texas would release the names of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse.
“‘Credibly accused’ is being worked out in terms of our lawyers even now as we speak,’ DiNardo said, adding that independent auditors were also reviewing archdiocesan files.
“As the U.S. Catholic Church has attempted to reckon with a mounting crisis of clerical sexual abuse, dioceses throughout the country have begun to release the names of accused priests. …
“Yet despite the increasing trend to release names – an initiative widely demanded by sex abuse survivors and praised by watchdog organizations – the practice also raises new questions, most notably being what ‘credibly accused’ actually means and who gets to decide.”
By Christopher White, Cruxnow.com — Read more …
More power for Catholic bishops? Not so fast / Huffington Post
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Pope Francis, Voice of the Faithful on June 27, 2017
Could giving more autonomy to Catholic bishops make things worse for progressive Catholics?
A lot has been written about Pope Francis’s goal of making the church more democratic, with less control by the Vatican and more power to individual bishops. In an ideal world, not only would the Vatican have less say in choosing bishops, but priests and laity would have a larger role in the selection of their leaders.
“However, unless the institutional church actually reaches that goal, and power truly devolves to the grassroots, giving more autonomy to Catholic bishops might make things worse, not better, at least for progressive Catholics.
“While Pope Francis’s appointments of often have elevated reformers to power, he cannot replace every powerful leader in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
“And the bishops now leading U.S. Catholics skew conservative. Indeed, in 2014, one bishop speaking on background confided that only about a third of American bishops were totally on board with Francis’s agenda, about a quarter were definitely against, and the rest were still figuring out where they stood. Not much appears to have changed in the intervening years.”
By Celia Wexler, Contributor, Huffington Post — Read more …
USCCB and Pope Francis are singing from different hymnals / National Catholic Reporter
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Voice of the Faithful on November 16, 2016
Watching the USCCB meeting this week was frustrating. The conference seems stuck. At a time when the country desperately needs a strong moral voice, the united voice of the bishops is sidelined, fretting about things that don’t matter and tepidly addressing the things that do. And, it was apparent to all that the concerns of Pope Francis are far from the concerns of the USCCB …
“In his update to the body on the work of the ad hoc Committee on Religious Liberty, Archbishop William Lori said they were making a difference. Are they …
“I heard almost no mention of the environment or Laudato Si’ at the USCCB meeting. Think about that for a minute …
“There was frequent mention of the charitable work of the church. But, there were no bishops heading to the microphones to denounce the ‘economy that kills’ …
“There was also a lack of discussion, at least in public session, about Amoris Laetitia …
“And, of course, the biggest immediate issue the bishops face is the prospect of mass deportations of many of our Catholic parishioners …
“… Sadly, I fear the country is about to be morally vandalized, indeed that process has already begun. There is a parable in the Gospel about the need for the night watchman to be vigilant. It is a parable the bishops should take to heart.”
By Michael Sean Winters, National Catholic Reporter — Click here to read the rest of this column.
U.S. Catholic bishops elect Texas cardinal to top post / Associated Press
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Catholic Bishops, Future of the Church, Voice of the Faithful on November 15, 2016
The nation’s Roman Catholic bishops elected a Texas cardinal Tuesday as their new president, choosing him to guide their relationship with the new Trump administration and represent them to the Vatican.
“Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, had served three years as vice president and succeeds Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, who is completing his three-year term.
“Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez was elected vice president, the first Latino to serve in the post, according to the Rev. Thomas Reese, an analyst with the National Catholic Reporter newspaper. The vice president customarily is elevated to president, putting Gomez in line to become the first Latino leader of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. About 4 in 10 U.S. Catholics are Latino and they already comprise a majority in several dioceses, including Gomez’ own archdiocese, which is about 70 percent Latino.”
By Rachel Zoll, Associated Press — Click here to read the rest of this story.
Child Victims Act sunsets within week of bishops’ abuse report / Voice of the Faithful
Posted by Voice of the Faithful in Clergy Sexual Abuse, Voice of the Faithful on May 25, 2016
BOSTON, Mass., May 25, 2016 – Recent heightened public scrutiny of Catholic clergy sexual abuse has reinforced the urgency for the Church to address the scandal adequately, according to abuse victims’ advocate and Church reform movement Voice of the Faithful.
Within only a week, the “window” in the Minnesota Child Victims act expired, even as the U.S. Catholic bishops made their annual abuse report.
On May 24, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the three-year window created by the 2013 Minnesota Child Victims Act for reporting old claims of child sex abuse would expire May 25. During the three-year period, more than 500 claims were made against Minnesota Catholic clergy, according to the Star Tribune, which said, “In the three years since the law’s passage, the local church has witnessed an archbishop’s resignation, two bankruptcies and the public naming of more than 100 priests credibly accused of child sex abuse.”
The same day, the Associated Press reported that lawyers for abuse victims were accusing the St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese of hiding more than $1 billion in assets “to avoid big payouts to abuse survivors as part of the church’s bankruptcy case.”
On May 20, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released its 2015 annual audit report on the implementation of its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The report was not entirely complimentary of the Church’s efforts. The report showed a sharp increase in the number of new claims primarily from adults reporting past abuse. Francesco Cesareo, chairman of USCCB’s National Review Board, said the audit showed progress in creating safe environments for children but that very progress threatens complacency in implementing the charter’s guidelines.
As VOTF has pointed out before, the audit relies on self-reporting to assess compliance with those guidelines with little or no verification of the reported data.
Voice of the Faithful believes this focus on the scandal reinforces calls to action VOTF has made many times, including:
- everyone in the Church, lay and clergy alike, must be constantly vigilant in order to prevent abuse and its coverup and to report suspected cases promptly to civil authorities;
- the Church must stop blocking state statutes of limitation reforms that allow sufficient time for abused children to report the crimes;
- the Church must hold accountable not only the abusers, but also those who fail to report the crimes;
- the Church must provide abuse survivors and all those harmed by the scandal with resources necessary for healing.
Voice of the Faithful®: Voice of the Faithful® is a worldwide movement of faithful Roman Catholics working to support survivors of clergy sexual abuse, support priests of integrity and increase the laity’s role in the governance and guidance of the Church. More information is at www.votf.org.