National Catholic Reporter
The Independent Newsweekly
Issue Date:  November 21, 2003

Bishops told of sex abuse response plans

Major national studies on the crisis of clergy sexual abuse of minors and the U.S. bishops’ response to it will be released next January and February, the U.S. bishops’ conference learned Nov. 11.

Justice Anne Burke, interim chair of the National Review Board monitoring diocesan compliance with the bishops’ program to protect children and respond to clergy sexual abuse, announced that the board plans to release two major studies the crisis of clergy sexual abuse of minors and the U.S. bishops’ response to it Feb. 27.

The studies are on the extent of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and deacons since 1950 by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and the board’s consensus report on interviews with bishops, priests-abusers, victims and a wide array of professionals regarding the “causes and context” of the abuse crisis, she said.

Burke, a justice of the Appellate Court of Illinois, has headed the all-lay National Review Board since the resignation last June of its chairman, former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating.

William Burleigh, a review board member, told the bishops that the board intends to release on Jan. 6 the first annual audit of dioceses. The audit will measure diocesan compliance or failure to comply with the mandates of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The charter, adopted by the bishops in June 2002, established the review board and the policies and procedures all dioceses must meet to assure that minors are protected from sexual abuse in church environments and that allegations of abuse are dealt with promptly and adequately.

William Gavin, a former FBI official and head of the Boston-based Gavin Group commissioned to audit compliance of all U.S. dioceses with the mandates of the bishops’ charter, said the audits, which typically lasted a week, required “comprehensive documentation” of what each diocese is doing to respond to allegations of sexual abuse, along with interviews with the local bishop, “diocesan personnel, victims, abusers, prosecutors and (diocesan) review board members.”

Each diocesan audit ended with instructions if a diocese was found not in compliance with a charter mandate, recommendations if compliance with some segment of a mandate was deemed lacking, or commendations if the diocese “was determined to have addressed issues prior to the charter or had taken actions above the demands of the charter,” Gavin said.

-- Catholic News Service

Bishops consider Africa secretariat

-- CNS/Bob Roller

Cardinal Frederic Etsou-Nzabi-Bamungwabi of Kinshasa, Congo, addresses the U.S. bishops during their fall general meeting Nov. 11 in Washington. The bishops were asked to consider the establishment of a committee and a secretariat for Africa to address the needs of the church on the continent. The conference has similar secretariats for Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola of Tshumbe, Congo, the president of the Episcopal Conferences of Central Africa, also addressed the U.S. bishops. “The wars affecting our region are dividing our people, sowing a culture of violence and destroying the social and moral fabric of our societies,” Djomo said.

“Despite the sufferings we have endured, God has remained steadfast,” he continued. “Our laity is extremely active. We are blessed with an abundance of vocations. Our churches are filled to capacity each Sunday.”

Initial response to the proposal voiced by U.S. bishops was generally supportive, though some hesitation about a new collection was expressed.

National Catholic Reporter, November 21, 2003

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