Audits on Priest Sex Abuse Flawed, According to Victim Advocates

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released a report yesterday on audits conducted to examine church procedures for preventing and dealing with sexual abuse of minors by priests. Advocates for victims of priest sex abuse, including the 4,600-member Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), believe the audits to be “fundamentally flawed.”

The report concluded that 90 percent of the dioceses and eparchies audited were in compliance with all of the provisions of the 2002 Dallas “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” However, SNAP President and Founder Barbara Blaine issued a statement pointing out that the Dallas Charter is a “vague and weak document” that only established “long overdue minimal steps, certainly not worthy of praise or commendation.” “[The report] focuses very heavily on paperwork and procedures and policies, which we believe has never been the issue,” David Clohessy, national director of SNAP, told the New York Times.

In addition, though the USCCB hired an independent firm to conduct the audit, investigators had to rely on “largely subjective material that was given voluntarily, and given by essentially the same men who have, for decades, fought to keep the crimes of the clergy concealed,” Blaine said. In most audits, investigators use objective material like personnel records, bank statements, and legal documents.

The audit report recommended better tracking of priests accused of sex abuse who had left dioceses, and more effort to seek out victims who were abused when they were children, according to the Los Angeles Times. Auditors mostly spoke to church officials and appointees, interviewing few victims, including only three SNAP members. Blaine believes that most of the progress that has been made has been outside of the church hierarchy, with laypeople, victims, parents, police officers, judges, and others becoming more aware of the problem and better able to prevent and deal with sex abuse by the clergy.

Another report will be issued next month focusing on the number of victims and abusers, based on a survey conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.

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SNAP press statement 1/5/04; Audit Report 1/2004; LA Times 1/7/04; NY Times 1/7/04

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