ARCHDIOCESE OF KANSAS CITY KS
Archdiocese commended for
"As the audit clearly shows, these intolerable sins have been committed by very few offenders," said Archbishop James P. Keleher. "Even so, it grieves me that even one child has been victimized. I offer my deepest apologies to all who were victimized or scandalized."
Archbishop Keleher was among those bishops who voted for "The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People," which was adopted when the U.S. bishops met in Dallas in June 2002 to address the scandal of clergy misconduct.
In its just-issued report, the Gavin Group also applauded the archdiocese "for the early implementation of comprehensive policies and procedures for dealing with the problems of sexual abuse of minors and for continuous improvement of those policies and procedures, resulting in an excellent program worthy of note."
The audit team noted that in 1990, then-Archbishop Ignatius J. Strecker established a "Policy on the Sexual Abuse of Children," which set forth procedures to be followed for incidents of suspected child abuse. It also called for background and reference checks to be conducted on all persons working with children - including employees and volunteers.
Statistics compiled for the John Jay Study, also commissioned by the U.S. bishops and scheduled for release on Feb. 27, showed that, over the past 52 years in the archdiocese, 10 priests out of 270 had been accused of sexual misconduct involving minors. Both the Gavin audit and the John Jay College Study were restricted to a review of charges against diocesan priests, so results of the archdiocesan audit pertain only to archdiocesan priests and don't include charges against priests of religious orders working in the archdiocese.
Further examination of the 10 cases in the archdiocese revealed that:
Allegations against five priests involving eight victims were substantiated.
This represents 1.8 percent of the total number of archdiocesan priests
serving between 1950 and 2002.
The history of the archdiocese in regard to the issue of sexual misconduct reveals a consistently proactive approach. Archbishop Keleher replaced Archbishop Strecker's 1990 policy in 1996 with a new policy that addressed the need for education programs to prevent child sexual abuse and required background questionnaires for those working with or around children. This policy was again revised in 2003.
The archbishop also created an Independent Review Board to investigate all claims and make recommendations to the archbishop. This board was reorganized by the archbishop in 2002, and expanded to include seven members. Father Charles D. McGlinn, vicar general, was appointed Archdiocesan Response Coordinator. Dan Pope, former executive director of Catholic Charities in the archdiocese, was appointed Victim Assistance Coordinator. Susan Carroll was appointed media representative.
Written policies and procedures for reporting abuse have been made widely available and are posted on the archdiocesan Web site (www.archkck.org). The hotline for reporting abuse is (913)647-3051.
In the fall of 2003, the archdiocese adopted VIRTUS, a program of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc., child protection and abuse prevention. VIRTUS training sessions have been held throughout the archdiocese with currently over 5,000 adults participating. Participation in the ongoing training program is required for all adults in the archdiocese who interact with children - including priests, parish staff, chancery staff, school principals, teachers, coaches and volunteers for programs such as religious education programs.
The current policy of the archdiocese requires the reporting of child abuse or neglect to the civil authorities. It also mandates the removal from ministry of abusers and offers counseling and pastoral support to anyone who reports having been abused.
The individual diocesan audits are part of a national review effort sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In addition to the Gavin Audit report, which was released in its entirety on Jan. 6 and portions of which are reprinted in this issue of the Leaven, two more reports will be released on Feb. 27. Compiled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, the report will provide aggregate statistics on the number of offenders, number of victims, and dollar amounts paid out by dioceses over the past 50 years in awards, costs, or settlements. The second, the National Review Board Report, more commonly referred to as the Bennett Report, represents the review board's conclusions about the crisis and is based on in-depth interviews with about 60 individuals knowledgeable about the problem and the John Jay findings. It, too, will be released on Feb. 27.
In a Catholic News Service story, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of Belleville, Ill., said the results of the reports could be "startling" to Catholics, but should reassure them that the church is serous about solving the problem.
"It's going to be startling because there's no other comparable study by any other institution, and there's no other study that details all of the good things the church has done," he said.
This lack of context should be kept in mind. It may be difficult to evaluate the numbers without these " background barometers," including the incidence of abuse in other environments.
"We're doing something bold. No other institution - none - has taken up this kind of serious study done in an objective, professional way. But we need to make sure that our people know we are serious," said Bishop Gregory.
Q. Archbishop, as you know, this interview with you will hit Catholics'
mailboxes the same day that the results of the John Jay Study and the
Bennett Report will hit the national airwaves. So, first, could you put
this all in context for Leaven readers? What is the John Jay Study?
Q. What will the John Jay Study contain?
Of course, we as bishops knew that was not the case. We'd been discussing the issue as a body for decades, and many of us knew that we'd handled the issues that came up to us locally quickly, sensitively, and properly.
The one big thing that came out of Dallas was the decision to investigate this thoroughly, so we as bishops - and the greater church - would know the nature and scope of the problem. It would also help us ensure that the right solutions are in place.
Now, no other organization - civic, religious or professional - has undertaken this kind of study. And if early reports are accurate, it's going to turn out that the problem is bigger than anything we imagined.
I'd also suspect that would hold true for other organizations as well, should they ever decide to undertake such a serious study. Apparently, the problem of child abuse is just more widespread than anybody could ever imagine.
Q. So how will the results of the John Jay Study be different from those
of the Gavin Audit Report, the local results which recently appeared in
The Leaven and are reprinted here with this Q & A?
So for example, here in our archdiocese, the Gavin Report did provide the following numbers - the number of accused, the number that were determined to be credibly accused, the number of victims, and the amount of money paid out.
But the John Jay Study will report the combined numbers of accused clergy, claims, and costs for all the dioceses in the country for the last 50 years. Those will, of course, include dioceses like Boston in which there were obviously many, many cases. That will make the numbers of victims, as well as the number of abusers and costs, seem enormous.
And, as a national church, we must begin to deal with that. In fact, in many ways we already have, which I'll go into in a minute.
But Catholics here in our archdiocese need to remember that these numbers are aggregate - here in the archdiocese there have been very few cases over the last 50 years. Ten priests out of 270 have been accused of sexual misconduct involving a minor. That's 1.8 percent. Five cases were substantiated. None of the 10 is in ministry today. We have spent about $480,000 for the care of abuse victims and in settlements. Insurance paid $377,000 of the costs, and the remainder came from the archdiocese.
Nevertheless, even these statistics are upsetting. One victim is one too many.
Q. Another report, called the Bennett Report for short, is also expected
to be made public at that same press conference. What is that?
Q. Do you know yet what either report contains?
I have, like everyone else, heard the early reports that came out, which indicate that roughly 4,500 priests have been accused of abusing children over the last 50 years. That would figure out to be about 4 percent of the entire clergy population. I haven't heard any early accounts of what the Bennett Report says.
Q. So where do we go from here?
And although it's hard to see the good news at times like this, I do believe there is some.
First, there has been considerable progress made in just the short period of time since Dallas. And the apparatus is in place to make far greater progress in the future.
But what I'd like to remind our Catholics of is that the institution of the church has failed us many times in the past. The institution of the church is run by human beings - flawed human beings like you and me. And as those human beings fail, so too does the institutional church.
The good news is, however, that even when the people of the institution fail us, the Gospels don't.
As members of the Roman Catholic Church, we profess our faith in someone and something beyond our human flaws - beyond the foibles of the human institution.
Our faith should always be first and foremost in Jesus Christ, our risen Lord. Jesus has not, and will not, fail us.
As we enter this season of reflection and penitence, I personally will be doing so with a greater awareness of my own failings, the limitations of human institutions, and the absolute reliance I have on Christ as the head of this church.
There is a famous line in Matthew's Gospel, when Christ is giving Peter the keys of the kingdom and he tells him, "You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it."
I take hope in the fact that our Lord entrusted the church to Peter - the most human of all the apostles - always forgiving him his errors, even his betrayals.
That gives me hope for the church today, as we work to put our errors - indeed, our betrayals - behind us. We need to pray and to work to rectify, as much as possible, the mistakes of the past, to prevent making the same mistakes in the future, and to carry out the work with which we were entrusted 2000 years ago - to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
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