NY Archdiocese Temporarily Suspends Background Checks

The Associated Press, carried in Newsday [New York NY]
April 11, 2003

The Archdiocese of New York has temporarily stopped doing background checks of employees, including priests, that were begun recently in response to the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal.

The system, which is being implemented by dioceses nationwide, calls for verification of Social Security numbers and searches of sex-offender databases and crime records.

The checks have been done for employees or volunteers who work with children, as well as those who work with other "vulnerable populations," such as the elderly or disabled.

Archdiocese spokesman Joseph Zwilling said Friday that priests, teachers and other employees had expressed concerns about how the information might be used.

"I believe most everyone supports the concept of doing these background checks," Zwilling said. "But there were some legitimate questions about who was to have a background check, what would be checked and what would happen with the information."

Meetings to iron out those questions will begin after the "extraordinarily busy" Holy Week, which culminates with Easter Sunday on April 20.

"We will figure out if any changes have to be made," said Zwilling. "I believe that a good deal of this could be misunderstanding."

It's not immediately clear how long it will take to reinstate the background checks. But "this is something that is important and something that will go forward," said Zwilling.

He said individual dioceses nationwide are developing their own versions of the system. In the New York Archdiocese, the background checks had been going on for about a week before they were suspended.


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