Two findings in 2012 certified the diocese’s safe environment programs
For the 10th consecutive year, the Diocese of Wilmington has been found to be in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ 2002 “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”
The bishops approved the charter in 2002 to establish their commitment to creating safe environments for children and youth, following the revelations of sexual abuse of children and young people by clergy and church personnel.
StoneBridge Business Partners, a Rochester, N.Y.-based, firm, notified Bishop Malooly Nov. 15 that its four-day on-site review of diocesan documents and interviews with officials found the diocese followed the guidelines of 17 articles in the charter during the 2011-12 audit period.
StoneBridge, a business that specializes in compliance auditing, was hired to conduct the annual audit by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office to Protect Children and Young People.
“The diocese submitted extensive data regarding our approach to survivors of clergy sexual abuse, complaint handling and investigation, reporting to civil authorities and counseling for survivors,” said Robert G. Krebs, spokesman for the diocese. “The audit also covered information regarding training given to church employees and volunteers, background checks and screening of seminarians. We are pleased that the Diocese of Wilmington was once again found compliant.”
StoneBridge also recommended that all members of a special diocesan committee that reviews policies and procedures regarding sexual abuse of minors and its prevention should participate in safe environment training programs provided to church personnel, in order to have direct knowledge of all policies and training.
StoneBridge’s audit was the second finding this year to certify the diocese is effective in keeping children in its care safe from abuse.
In April, the diocese’s plan, “For the Sake of God’s Children,” was declared effective by a consultant retained by the diocese, Dr. Sandy K. Wurtele.
In an extensive 55-page report, Wurtele, a child-protection consultant and psychologist who is chair of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Institutional Review Board for Human Subjects, praised the diocese as an “organization that has attacked the problem [of child abuse] on so many different levels,” including the diocesan school curriculum on child protection, “Keeping Our Promises.”
Wurtele’s review was the result of an agreement in the 2011 settlement the diocese reached with survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
Msgr. J. Thomas Cini, vicar general, said the StoneBridge auditors examined documents and asked officials questions on how the diocese was implementing each of the U.S. bishops’ 17 articles in their charter.
Each response had to “be backed up with documentation proving that, in fact, the directives of that particular article of the charter are being implemented,” Msgr. Cini said.
Among the people interviewed by StoneBridge were Bishop Malooly, the vicar general, the survivor-assistance coordinator, members of the Diocesan Review Board, people who developed and implemented safe-environment policies, the vicar for priests, the vocations and communications directors, as well as school principals, DREs and pastors.
Other charter articles checked by the auditors included requirements that dioceses:
• Have special care for and reach out to survivors of sexual abuse and their families to demonstrate a sincere commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being.
• Maintain training in safe-environment programs for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators and volunteers.
• Are to evaluate the background of all priests and deacons who are engaged in church ministry, as well as any person involved in church ministry whether paid or unpaid. (Criminal background checks are a matter of standard practice.)
• Are to cooperate with civil authorities when abuse is discovered.
• Develop standards for ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy and any other personnel or church volunteers in position of trust.
The first audit that found the diocese in compliance with the bishops’ charter was in 2003. Including a voluntary audit in 2006 and the Wurtele report on child-protection efforts last April, the Diocese of Wilmington’s work to protect God’s children has been found to be effective by outside consultants 11 times during the last 10 years.