Response by Diocese of Rockville Centre to Grand Jury Report
February 10, 2003
Statement issued Monday by the Diocese of Rockville Centre in response to the Suffolk County grand jury report
The Suffolk County grand jury investigating the Diocese of Rockville Centre's handling of sexual abuse of minors by clergy gave its report to the media without any time for diocesan officials to review it.
Despite this unfair tactic, the diocese unequivocally rejects the characterization of its actions given by this report Specifically, the accusation that the Diocese of Rockville Centre conceived and agreed to a plan using deception and intimidation to prevent victims from seeking legal solutions to their problems is simply not true.
The report covers the more than 45 years during which the Diocese of Rockville Centre has been in existence, and it details incidents that were deaft with many years ago. While sexual abuse of minors is always a grave sin and a crime, the ways of dealing with it have developed over time. This is every bit as true of law enforcement officials as of church personnel. It is unfair to use today's standards to judge sincere attempts in the past to assist victims and to help perpetrators not to offend again. The diocese took extremely seriously any allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, sent the accused priest away for evaluation and treatment, and worked with the victims for a just settlement.
Shortly after his installation as bishop in September 2001, Bishop Murphy reviewed active cases. Before the end of the year, he acted on allegations in those files, removing two priests from restricted ministry. Despite the solid evidence of the effectiveness of treatment, Bishop Murphy demonstrated, by these actions, his recognition that the complete safety of all children must be paramount; and he recommitted the diocese to ensuring that no minor is harmed by any person working for or volunteering with the Catholic Church in Rockville Centre.
To achieve this goal, Bishop Murphy in the months following September 2001, revised diocesan procedures. These were announced in April 2002. He created a new team to deal with these cases. It is made up of a priest social worker, a psychotherapist who is also a woman religious, and a former police commissioner. This team is to handle all incoming complaints of abuse, bring them to law enforcement and provide therapy for the victim, independent of the bishop or his office. Bishop Murphy also established a 24-hour hotline to receive complaints. Settlements were prohibited, and Bishop Murphy stated that any priest who could not minister to young people would not minister in this diocese and would never have his approval to minister in any other. He also named a 10-member Review Board that would review all information and advise the bishop concerning the future disposition of any priest.
All this was set in place and announced in April 2002, two months before the Bishops' Meeting in Dallas. Thus when that meeting passed the Charter to which all bishops adhered, the Diocese of Rockville Centre already had in place all the elements called for by that Charter.
The diocese has also contracted with VIRTUS (a project of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group) to customize for this diocese a program called "Protecting God's Children," requiring the participation in and training of every employee and volunteer.
Bishop Murphy also has called on the state legislature to make all who work with children mandatory reporters, and he endorsed a State Senate bill to extend the statute of limitations for the crime of sexual abuse of a minor.
The diocese has never had any objection to the officials of either county looking into ways to make children safe from sexual abuse within the setting of the Church, within the family, or any other environment. However, along with every other organization and individual, it does not expect to be put at a disadvantage by our civil officials.
To give this lengthy report to Newsday in advance is an attempt to control the media and its reaction to it. It puts the diocese at a disadvantage. However, we do not hesitate to say that the very way the evidence was gathered guarantees that it contains only bits and pieces that do not add up to an accurate picture of the genuine concern to stop abuse and protect children that has truly characterized the Diocese of Rockville Centre. It is ironic that the most immediate effect of this investigation was a reduced sentence for a priest abuser for his supposed cooperation with the grand jury.
Despite evidence of a lack of unbiased treatment in the issuance of this report and substantial legal opinions questioning the D.A.'s authority to issue it at all, the Diocese of Rockville Centre remains committed to do all in its power to respond to the anguish and suffering endured by the victims of sexual abuse and their loved ones and to see that children and young people are fully protected in the future. We will carefully study this report. If any information contained within it might further enhance our commitment to do this, it will be promptly adopted.
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