Sex Abuse Panel Releases Early Survey Results

Chairman “Encouraged” by Response in U.S.

WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 23, 2002 ( The chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse says he is encouraged by the response to a survey taken to assess the implementation of a crucial charter.

St. Paul and Minneapolis Archbishop Harry J. Flynn, chairman of the committee, was commenting on the poll regarding the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter was approved by U.S. bishops last June.

“We not only got a quick response from dioceses,” Archbishop Flynn said in a statement appearing on the bishops’ conference Web site, “but the information they shared with us shows how committed they are to putting the Charter into effect.”

The survey was taken during August at the suggestion of the National Review Board set up by the bishops to help monitor diocesan compliance with the charter. Among the results:

–Of the 195 archdioceses and dioceses surveyed, 186, or 95%, have responded.

–Of them, 179 (nearly 92% of all dioceses) reported having a written policy on sexual abuse available to the public. Of the 6 replying in the negative, 5 said that they are preparing to do so.

–156 (or 80% of all dioceses) reported having procedures for making a complaint readily available, in printed form, and the subject of public announcements. Of the 29 replying in the negative, 13 indicated that they plan to comply by October; the rest by year-end.

–133 (or 68% of all dioceses) reported that they have an assistance coordinator who aids in the immediate pastoral care of victims of sexual abuse by church personnel. Of the 52 who don’t, 24 said that they plan to comply this year.

–149 (or 76% of all dioceses) reported having a review board, the majority of whose members are lay people not employed by the diocese or eparchy (a diocese of the Eastern Catholic Church). Of the 34 replying in the negative, 25 said that they plan to comply by year-end.

–105 (or 54% of all dioceses) responded that they report past or old cases of abuse to civil authorities. Forty-eight (or 25% of all dioceses) answered in the negative; 33 gave incomplete responses.

The report summary stated that this was part of a question that received more incomplete responses than any other, reflecting “the variety of legal requirements to which dioceses are called to respond and the fact that many of these requirements are under review by state legislatures.”

–118 (or 61% of all dioceses) reported that they have a statement or policy describing appropriate standards of ministerial behavior for clergy and other church personnel. Of the 66 answering in the negative, most indicated that they are in the process of reviewing or updating their personnel handbooks to comply with the charter.

–127 (or 65% of all dioceses) reported initiating a “safe environment” program for the detection and prevention of child sexual abuse. Of the 56 responding “no,” most reported looking into such a program.

–160 (or 82% of all dioceses) reported having procedures to check the background of clergy, church ministers and volunteers who have regular contact with minors. Of the 23 responding in the negative, most reported that they are developing procedures to revising older ones.

–144 (or 74% of all dioceses) reported having been in dialogue with the major superiors of religious regarding the status of members in religious life. Of the 39 answering “no,” most reported scheduling such a meeting by year-end. Seven indicated having no religious working in their diocese or eparchy.

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