Audit report released; bishops urged to renew vigilance ‘each day’

By Julie Asher (CNS)
WASHINGTON – The 16th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” shows a significant increase in the number of abuse allegations over last year’s report because of additional claims received in five New York dioceses after implementation of their Independent Reconciliation and Compensation programs in the last year.
Released May 31, the report for audit year July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018, states that 1,385 survivors of child sex abuse, including 26 minors, came forward with 1,455 allegations. In last year’s report, charges were raised by more than 650 adults and 24 minors.
Twenty-six of the new allegations reported by dioceses and eparchies involved current minors – 12 males and 14 females – and came from three different dioceses, the report said.
Of the other new allegations reported by dioceses and eparchies, 47 percent were said to have occurred or began before 1975; 43 percent between 1975 and 1999; and 5 percent since 2000. The most common time period for when these reported allegations occurred was 1975 to 1979, followed by 1970-1974.
More than half of new allegations reported by religious institutions in the latest audit year, or 55 percent, are alleged to have occurred or begun before 1975; 41 percent occurred or began between 1975 and 1999; and 1 percent (two allegations) occurred or began after 2000.
Regarding the 26 allegations involving current minors, the report said that as of June 30, 2018, three claims were substantiated and the clergy were removed from ministry; seven were unsubstantiated; three were categorized as “unable to be proven;” investigations were still in process for six of these allegations; two were referred to a religious order; two were reported as unknown clerics; and three were not claims of sexual abuse, but were boundary violations.
The report was issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and is based on the audit findings of StoneBridge Business Partners.
“These current allegations point to the reality that sexual abuse of minors by the clergy should not be considered by bishops as a thing of the past or a distant memory,” said Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the all-lay National Review Board, which oversees the audits. He called the 26 new allegations by current minors in dioceses and eparchies “concerning.”
“Any allegation involving a current minor should remind the bishops that they must rededicate themselves each day to maintaining a level of vigilance that will not permit complacency to set in or result in a less precise and less thorough implementation of the charter,” he said in introductory remarks to the report.
Cesareo pointed to areas of concern that he said must be addressed, such as “poor recordkeeping of background checks; failure to train or background check clergy, employees or volunteers who have contact with children; a high percentage of children not trained, especially in religious education programs; and lack of cooperation by parishes in the implementation of safe environment requirements.”
If parishes are unable to implement the charter “as fully as possible” because of a lack of resources, he said, parishes – and dioceses – should find ways to collaborate with one another, including sharing resources.
In some dioceses, he said, there is a “lack of diligence” and a “laxity” that is putting children’s safety at risk. He was dismayed that “we have still not achieved 100 percent participation” in the auditing process. He also called for a “more in-depth” audit process and a revision of the charter that “will incorporate new practices, such as parish audits,’ which he said the National Review Board has been recommending for some time.
“It should be pointed out that, given the current climate within the church, StoneBridge noticed a heightened sense of urgency and focus in many of the dioceses that were visited during this cycle,” Cesareo said. “This was evident in the active review of priest files, the release or updating of lists of alleged abusers, and greater emphasis on discussion and transparency with parishioners in individual dioceses/eparchies.
“This is a welcome change which must be sustained going forward rather than a one-time response to the heightened sense of scrutiny if a lasting cultural change is to take place,” he said.
The “current climate” relates to several events of the last year, including allegations of sexual misconduct with minors and seminarians, some decades old, against former Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, which led to his church trial last fall and the Vatican dismissing him from the clerical state in February.
Also, last August a Pennsylvania grand jury issued a report on the state attorney general’s monthslong investigation into six of the state’s Catholic dioceses. The probe covered a 70-year period starting in 1947 and linked more than 300 priests and other church workers to more than 1,000 abuse claims during that timeframe. However in the months since that report’s release many have criticized the methodology of investigators.
“While much has been done to ensure survivor ministry and the protection of the vulnerable are core values of the church, improvements still must be made. When it comes to the protection of young people, the question must always be ‘what more can be done?'” Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, said in the report’s preface.
“We must continually rededicate ourselves to keeping our promise to protect and pledge to heal. Not once, not twice, but every single day,” he said. “With every action we take, let us all remember to keep the survivor, the child, the vulnerable person, at the center of everything we do.”
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, based at Georgetown University in Washington, gathers data for the annual audit report. StoneBridge Business Partners, based in Rochester, New York, provides the compliance report based visits to dioceses and eparchies and reviews of diocesan documentation.
During 2018, StoneBridge conducted on-site audits of 72 dioceses and eparchies, and collected data from 122 others. All dioceses/eparchies were found compliant except for the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, which, the report said, had not complied with article 7 of the charter requiring dioceses “to be open and transparent” in communications regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy, “especially those parishes that may have been affected.”
The Lincoln Diocese, in a June 2 statement sent to Catholic News Service in response to the audit report, said it announced the promulgation of new safe environment policies April 2 of this year and at the time time “acknowledged that in November 2018, it was audited on-site by the USCCB to ensure that its safe environment policies and procedures are in compliance with the charter.”
“Citing a 2017 example of allegations against Father James Benton,” the diocese said, “the auditors concluded that the diocese must be more transparent in informing parishes and other church communities who are directly affected by an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor. While the diocese changed its practices in this regard in August 2018, the April 2, 2019, revised policies formally adopt this change.”
In 2017, Father Benton, now retired, resigned as pastor following allegations that more than 25 years ago, he abused two family members. The Diocesan Review Board addressed the claims and referred them the case to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which then asked Lincoln Bishop James D. Conley “to take appropriate action,” according to the bishop’s open letter published Aug. 10, 2018, in the Lincoln Star Journal daily newspaper. He prohibited the priest from exercising public ministry and restricted him from being with minors.
Earlier claims that surfaced in 2002 that the priest had inappropriately touched a minor on a camping trip in the early 1980s “was fully investigated by the Lincoln Diocese,” the bishop said, but the “allegations could not be substantiated.”
In the new audit report, the CARA data shows that more than nine in 10 alleged offenders, or 92 percent, identified during the 2017-2018 survey year were already deceased, already removed from ministry, already laicized or missing. Most abuse reported occurred between 1960 and 1990, peaking in the 1970s.
Dioceses, eparchies and religious institutes reported paying out $262,619,537 for costs related to allegations between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2018. This includes payments for allegations reported in previous years. That payout figure is just under the amount reported the previous year.
Outreach and support was provided to 472 victims/survivors and their families who reported abuse during this audit period. Continued support was provided to 1,542 victims/survivors and their families who reported abuse in prior audit periods. Support may include counseling, spiritual assistance, support groups, and other social services.
The report also notes the ongoing work of the church in continuing the call to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults. In 2018, more than 2.6 million background checks were conducted on church clerics, employees, and volunteers. In addition, in 2018 more than 2.6 million adults and 3.9 million children and youth also have been trained on how to identify the warning signs of abuse and how to report those signs.

(Editor’s Note: The Diocese of Jackson passed its onsite audit. The full annual report on compliance with the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops can be found at

U.S. bishops urged to be vigilant, never complacent, in stopping abuse

By Catholic News Service
INDIANAPOLIS (CNS) – Francesco Cesareo, chairman of the National Review Board, urged the U.S. bishops June 14 during their spring meeting in Indianapolis to continue to keep their commitment to stopping clergy sexual abuse and supporting victims of abuse “at the forefront” of their ministry.
He said sexual abuse of minors by clergy is “not a thing of past” and stressed the bishops have to always be vigilant and be sure to not “let complacency set in” in their efforts to stop it.
The review board is a group working with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to address and prevent sexual abuse of minors in the U.S. by clergy and other church personnel.
Cesareo pointed out there was still work to be done in this area, but he also praised the bishops for what they’ve accomplished and stressed that dioceses in the United States are among the safest places for children and are also models for rest of the world.
In his report to the bishops, he presented some of the key points of the recently issued 14th annual report on diocesan compliance with the U.S. Catholic Church’s “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
The report – based on audits conducted between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016 – shows that 1,232 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy came forward with 1,318 clerical abuse allegations in 132 Catholic dioceses and eparchies. The allegations represent reports of abuse that occurred from the 1940s to the present.
The review board chair said he was pleased with the high number of dioceses participating in the audit, noting that only two did not participate, down from six the previous year. He said all dioceses have indicated that they will participate in the next audit.
The value of participating in the audit “can’t be overemphasized,” he said.
One weak spot he noted in the audit process is the overall lack of parish participation, which he urged bishops to do something about to provide full transparency.
Cesareo, president of Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, stressed that the review board wants to help the Catholic Church by providing tools to implement the charter and even to work on improving the charter by making it more specific.
Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has appointed four new members to serve on the review board. The new members, announced June 14, are: Amanda Callanan, director of communications for the Claremont Institute, a California-based think tank; Suzanne Healy, victims assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles from 2007-2016; Dr. Christopher McManus, who practices internal medicine and is an active member of the Northern Virginia Guild of the Catholic Medical Association; and Eileen Puglisi, former director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York.
Cesareo will continue to chair the review board until his term expires in 2020.
Prior to his presentation to the bishops, Margaret Simonson, chair of the U.S. bishops’ National Advisory Council, a group of laypeople who advise the bishops, gave her report.
She said the council supported several items on the bishops’ agenda for their June 14-15 meeting, particularly discussion about religious liberty, which she said was so important in “this particular time in history.”
She also said the council supported the “Mass of Prayer and Penance” being celebrated in the early evening June 14 for survivors of sexual abuse within the church, the discussion of revised guidelines for people with disabilities and an update on the upcoming convocation for Catholic leaders taking place in Orlando, Florida, July1-4.
(Editor’s note: Bishop Joseph Kopacz has joined the committee for the protection of children. Read more about his appointment and child protection efforts in this diocese on page 3 and 16.)

Office of Child Protection introduces new ongoing training

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Effective, Jan. 1, the Diocese of Jackson will complement its safe environment program with monthly online training programs from VIRTUS.
It is both the foundation and the structure of all the risk control initiatives undertaken by National Catholic Services. Every employee and volunteer in the diocese will get an email every month with a link to training material. He or she will have to answer a multiple-choice question after reading the bulletin.
The VIRTUS Online Program is integrated with the Diocese of Jackson Protection of Children eApps Database. The eApps database will track and report who has participated in the monthly web-based safe environment training bulletins. Additionally, the VIRTUS website will include Diocesan Protection of Children polices and resource information.
All those who minister to children, young people and vulnerable populations will be provided a user ID and password to enter, and will receive a system email reminder within the first full week of each month that a training bulletin is available to view online.
Anyone logging into the VIRTUS website is offered the Spanish option as well.
New employees and volunteer are still required to participate in a live “Called to Protect” initial training. The month subsequent to the initial training, an applicant will start receiving the monthly bulletin emails.
VIRTUS is the brand name that identifies best practices programs designed to help prevent wrongdoing and promote “rightdoing” within religious organizations. The VIRTUS programs empower organizations and people to better control risk and improve the lives of all those who interact with the Church.
The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (National Catholic) created the programs. Msgr. Kevin McCoy, past board chairman of National Catholic, asked whether child sexual abuse could be prevented and, if so, how? In March of 1998, National Catholic invited prominent national experts in many disciplines to discuss these questions at a forum in Washington, D.C. From those discussions, the initiative for the VIRTUS programs was created. The National Catholic Board of Directors selected an Ad Hoc Committee to oversee development of the programs. The Ad Hoc Committee was assisted by a steering committee of nationally known experts and program and service providers.
“The VIRTUS® Programs empower organizations and people to better control risk and improve the lives of all. The training programs are comprehensive and multi-dimensional incorporating proven best practice standards for the ‘prevention’ of child sexual abuse,” wrote Pat O’Neal, Virtus executive director in an email. “The programs also incorporate best practice procedures for identifying problematic situations, reporting child sexual abuse, screening and selection of employees and volunteers, and addressing victim/survivor advocacy and healing,” O’Neal added.
“Most initial training programs establish awareness, but few change behavior. With the VIRTUS programs, the potential for successful behavioral change can be increased via the VIRTUS Online system. Monthly scheduled online training bulletins reinforce knowledge gained during awareness training with a continued focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse and the abuse of vulnerable adults,” said O’Neal.
Virtus is Latin for excellence, valor, moral strength and courage — the same characteristics needed for caring adults who interact with children and protect them from abuse. Through these programs that have reached more than 2.5 million adults, caring adults become partners with parents to ensure that all children are protected.
Vickie Carrollo, Safe Environment Coordinator for the diocese said she is excited about the new program. “I am always happy when we can strengthen our program, but I also believe the monthly bulletins are interesting and cover such a huge variety of topics,” she said.
Carrollo wanted to express her thanks to everyone involved in safe environment training and maintenance. “Thank you for the hours you have given, for your service to the Church and for the children you have protected.  Many blessings as we continue our journey into the future of safe environments.”

‘Spotlight’ an opportunity to acknowledge responsibility, appreciate advances in protecting children

“Spotlight,” a movie on the Boston Globe articles on child sexual abuse in the church, is currently showing in theaters across the Diocese of Jackson. The drama from Open Roads Films depicts the work of the investigative team that first publicly exposed the scandal. It was directed and co-written by Tom McCarthy and features several notable actors and actresses: Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Stanley Tucci and John Slattery.
In 2002, the crime and sin of child sexual abuse was brought out in the open for all to see. In bringing light to this crisis, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was approved. A nationwide network of victim assistance and safe environment training was created to implement the requirements of the Charter.
Individually and together the church acknowledges the mistakes of the past. We acknowledge our responsibility and role in the suffering this has caused and we continue to ask forgiveness.
Twelve years later the church at large and the Diocese of Jackson in particular remains committed to the principles of that Charter and we ask for your continued help, support and prayers as we: promote healing and reconciliation with victims/survivors of sexual abuse, respond effectively to allegations of sexual abuse, become accountable for our procedures, and protect the faithful in the future.
The Diocese of Jackson constantly evaluates its office of Child Protection, making improvements whenever possible. A new program to train clergy, parish leaders and volunteers is being introduced in January. Read more about it in the next issue of Mississippi Catholic.
We humbly invite anyone who may have experienced abuse to please come forward. Our victims’ assistance coordinator, Valarie McClelland, can be reached at 601-326-3728. And if anyone is currently being abused, please contact the police.

Protection of Children announces renewal details, workshop plans

The Office for the Protection of Children has two programs in the works this fall. First, all active parish, school and service center employees must renew their child protection certification by Oct. 31. The Diocese of Jackson requires recertification every odd-numbered calendar year as part of its ongoing commitment to the safety of children.
“It is imperative that everyone who has contact with minors understand our policies and that they recognize potential signs of abuse,” said Vickie Carollo, office coordinator. “Renewing these certifications is a way for us to keep everyone up-to-date on the latest research,” she added.
New employees and volunteers must attend an initial training session at their parish, school or ministry site. Those who have already attended a training only need to read a series of review lessons and complete a quiz online. The program will automatically update the status of the volunteer or employee once the review has been submitted. The lessons focus on current research into child abuse, such as what children abusers may target. They also give contemporary examples of abuse cases, including ones involving social media and online communications.
While the review is online, it is possible to print any of the material. The employee must pass each lesson before moving on to the next one, but users can review a lesson and re-take a quiz. Access the quiz using the link on the home page of the Diocese of Jackson website,
The second program is a workshop open to anyone including pastors, catechists, volunteers and concerned parents and parishioners. On Saturday, Oct. 3, the Offices of Protection of Children, Faith Formation and Catholic Schools will offer a workshop at Madison St. Joseph High School from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. on “Catholic Citizenship in the Digital Age.”
“We have a responsibility as Catholics to promote internet safety as a church. Education is important to us as good Catholics to be respectable and appropriate users of digital and social media.  Staying well-informed of changes in technology is crucial due to the dangers that threaten us and our children and young people,” said Carollo.
The presenter, Paul Sanfrancesco, is the director of technology for the Garnet Valley School District located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He also teaches as adjunct professor in the graduate education department at St. Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, and Neumann University, in Aston, Penn. Read more about that program here.
A few years ago Sanfrancesco did a survey in his school system on how proficient teachers were at using technology. He found that many needed training not only in technology, but in online platforms such as social media. He started a summer program to train his own teachers. He now takes that program across the country
The workshop is free and lunch will be provided; however, registration is requested. For additional details, call the Office of Protection of Children at 601-960-8471 or email