Diocese in Yakima Establishes Panel to Deal with Abuse

The Seattle Times [Yakima WA]
Downloaded June 14, 2003

YAKIMA - The Catholic Diocese of Yakima has established a citizens-advisory board to make it easier for people to report sexual misconduct by priests.

"If there's one main goal, it's to build confidence within the community that any instances of abuse will be dealt with and addressed by an independent, objective committee," said Russell Mazzola, a Yakima lawyer and the board's chairman.

In addition to Mazzola, members include a pediatrician, a state public-health adviser, a retired Seattle police officer, a retired director of the Yakama Nation housing authority, a Wenatchee counselor and a non-Catholic lawyer from Wenatchee.

Monsignor John Ecker, the diocese's vicar general, is a nonvoting member of the committee, officially called the Diocesan Lay Advisory Board.

"My view was to keep some distance from the hierarchy, but we still needed church expertise," Mazzola said.

The diocese has set up a toll-free confidential phone number for people to report concerns. Messages can be left in English or Spanish, and they will be referred to the board.

If a complaint is lodged with the board, Mazzola will notify Bishop Carlos Sevilla and convene the board to review it. An investigator could be hired. The investigator and the panel may choose to interview witnesses.

If the board considers the complaint legitimate, it will submit a report to the county prosecutor. The board could also make a recommendation to Sevilla.


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