Pilla Picks Diocese Review Board
By David Briggs
Plain Dealer [Cleveland OH]
May 10, 2003
Bishop Anthony Pilla has appointed a predominantly lay review board to monitor the Cleveland Catholic Diocese's handling of sexual abuse allegations and make recommendations on the fitness of accused clerics to return to ministry.
The 15-member advisory board, which includes 13 lay people, plans to have its first meeting by June 1. The appointment of the board begins a process that will allow 15 priests who are on administrative leave from the diocese because of allegations of abusing minors to seek reinstatement.
Diocesan spokesman Robert Tayek said yesterday that there is no timetable for reviewing the cases of accused priests, but it "falls in the category of 'as soon as possible.' " William Denihan, who was head of a special commission that developed the diocesan policy on dealing with abuse, said the review board needs to establish its bylaws but could begin considering cases in two months.
Tayek and Denihan said it is not known how many priests will appeal to return to ministry. The review board will investigate cases and advise the bishop, but Pilla will make the final decision.
The eight women and seven men chosen for the board include two abuse victims, counselors, child psychiatrists and therapists who have worked both with abuse survivors and offenders.
The Rev. Albert Krupp, pastor of St. Agnes of Elyria, is the priest representative. Sister Therese Sullivan, a canon lawyer for the Diocesan Tribunal, was the other nonlay person chosen.
"The work of the review board is essential to ensure the safety and security of the children of our diocese and to also ensure that there is healing and justice in these matters," Pilla said in announcing the new panel. In February he had announced a new policy on the sexual abuse of minors that included the review board.
Under the new diocesan policy, the review board will assess the credibility of abuse allegations against all church employees and volunteers. Final decisions regarding nonclerical employees will be made by diocesan administrators.
In the cases of priests, deacons and seminarians, the board may make recommendations to the bishop about the alleged offender's fitness to return to ministry.
Pilla has the final say. The bishop has consistently affirmed his support of national church policy that any priest who has committed even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor will be permanently removed from the ministry.
Denihan said yesterday that the quality of candidates for the review board was outstanding and that Catholics can be confident that lay people will "play a meaningful role" in the handling of abuse cases.
William Crosby, who has represented church-abuse victims for more than a decade, said this policy would have saved a great deal of hurt if it had been put in place years ago, but he praised the diocese for moving in the right direction.
"I applaud them for taking the action, and I hope that they're sincere and will begin to listen to the lay review board," Crosby said.
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