Federal government Deferred Prosecution Agreement update

By Mary Woodward
As part of the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) the Diocese of Jackson has entered with the Federal government, a Compliance Board has been established to guide the diocese through the next 12 months. The board consists of financial and legal experts along with pastoral and diocesan curia consisting of Father Lincoln Dall, vicar general; Carolyn Callahan, diocesan finance officer; and Mary Woodward, diocesan chancellor.

The board, which will gather quarterly, met for its initial meeting on Oct. 13, to discuss ideas and ways to move forward in implementing the steps listed in the DPA to ensure greater transparency and better communication between the diocese and parishes.

Initial steps proposed by the board included establishing dual compliance officers for the process with Callahan as compliance officer for fraud and Woodward as compliance officer for ethics. Callahan and Woodward will initiate investigations of complaints made through Lighthouse services, the diocesan hotline for reporting ethical and financial violations.

Complaints through this system may be made anonymously by individuals who have witnessed violations of financial policies and/or ethical conduct by church personnel, including parish or diocesan staff and clergy. For each complaint there are three site administrators who receive notification of that complaint. If one of these site administrators is mentioned in a complaint, the complaint goes to other two administrators.

To register an official complaint access the Lighthouse hotline by contacting: https://www.lighthouse-services.com/jacksondiocese or emailing reports@lighthouse-services.com.

The Compliance Board asked for Lighthouse reports to be presented to the Diocesan Code of Ethical Conduct Review Board, which was established by Bishop Joseph Kopacz in July 2019 to address abuse of vulnerable adults by church personnel. This is an independent review board made up of psychological, medical and legal experts that functions in a similar fashion to the Diocesan Fitness Review Board, which addresses sexual abuse of minors by church personnel.

The Ethical Conduct Board will review the completed investigations of reports and make a recommendation to the Compliance Officers and Bishop for follow up, including possible removal from office and a supervision protocol for an offender. If the investigation reveals a criminal or civil violation, the case is turned over to law enforcement as well. Updates on numbers of reports will be made in Mississippi Catholic.

The Compliance Board also asked for the annual financial audit summary of the diocese to be published in Mississippi Catholic and a link to the full report on the diocesan website. Another layer of oversight discussed was the internal audit program planned and in process by Temporal Affairs and the possibility of independent audits or reviews for larger parishes.

The next meeting of the Compliance Board will be in January 2021 to review progress made in the areas mentioned above and to look at ways to foster avenues of reconciliation and trust among parishes and the diocese.