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Archdiocese vows to implement clergy abuse panel’s recommendations

A task force set up by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis found serious shortcomings in the handling of clergy abuse cases. Archbishop John Nienstedt said he accepts the recommendations called for to improve the situation.

Church officials chose the task force amid serious allegations made against priests, and the way that church officials dealt with offending priests.

The archdiocese today released the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force’s report (pdf) which list these “serious shortcomings:”

  • For many years, the Archdiocese concentrated too much power in one or two individuals to make decisions regarding allegations of clergy sexual abuse of minors. These individuals were not subject to adequate oversight nor their decisions and actions subject to monitoring and audit. Processes and decisions have appeared secretive and sequestered, even if that was not the intent.
  • Communication within the Archdiocese and with the faithful, the public, the media and victims of abusive clergy about clergy secual abuse of minors has been inadequate and, at times, non-existant. Information became compartmentalized which prevented decision-makers and relevant boards from knowing all the pertinent information, including early warning sigs which could have suggested future problems.
  • The Archdiocese’s record-keeping regarding the performance and conduct of its clergy is not comprehensive or coordinated and relies on outdated systems. Among other things, facts that relate to clergy misconduct are often unavailable to decision-makers at important points in the process.
  • The Archdiocese has no meaningful compliance auditing and monitoring program to evaluate, test, and monitor compliance with policies and procedures that are designed to prevent and detect sexual abuse of minors.
  • The Archdiocese has a confusing and inadequate complaint-reporting mechanism.

And the report offered these recommendations:

  1. The Archdiocese’s Safe Environment organizational structure should be revised. There should be a single review board and the authority of this single Clergy Review Board, composed of a majority of laypeople, should be expanded to receive and review all allegations of clergy misconduct. The Delegate for Safe Environment, a lay person, should be the Archdiocese’s responsible officer to manage its response to reports of all clergy misconduct, and should support and coordinate the activities of the Clergy Review Board, the Promoter of Ministerial Standards, the Victim Advocate, and the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. 
  2. The Archdiocese should create a comprehensive Compliance Auditing and Monitoring (CAM) Program to ensure that its entire Safe Environment Program is effective. The CAM Program should be developed with the assistance of outside consultants, and implemented by the Clergy Review Board and the Delegate for Safe Environment. The Archdiocese’s Safe Environment Program should also be subject to an annual independent external audit. 
  3. 3. The Archdiocese should develop a more effective record-keeping procedure to ensure that information related to clergy sexual misconduct is compiled, centralized and made accessible to Safe Environment decision makers. It should also formulate policies for the acceptable use of electronic devices and communication; the screening of electronic devices prior to disposal; and the retention of documents and electronically stored information. These changes will help prevent and detect violations of Archdiocesan Safe Environment policies. 
  4. The Archdiocese should strengthen and expand its mechanisms to receive complaints of clergy sexual abuse (including anonymous reporting mechanisms), utilize web-based and traditional communication methods to educate the public on reporting clergy misconduct, and protect individuals from retaliation for making complaints. 
  5. The Archdiocese should continue to look to the Saint Paul Seminary as a resource in preventing clergy sexual abuse of minors. By strengthening the candidate selection process in the Archdiocese and maintaining a robust admissions and evaluation framework, by inviting evaluation by the entire faculty (including lay faculty), and by providing adequate education on these issues for seminarians, the Saint Paul Seminary can assist with the ultimate goal of protecting children.
  6. The Archdiocese should enhance implementation of the “The Essential Three” components of its Safe Environment programming by improving its background check process, expanding its training, and updating its Codes of Conduct.

The task force members were chosen by the Rev. Reginald Whitt, the Vicar for Ministerial Standards, but operated independently of him and the archbishop, the archdiocese said.

And the statement says: “The archdiocese will provide periodic updates on the status of implementation.”

Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by Judy Jones on 04/14/2014 - 04:54 pm.

    Childrens safety at stake–

    So what has this archdiocese been doing in the past 12 years, since Catholic church officials proclaimed their zero tolerance policy?
    This lengthy report will do nothing to protect kids today. The St Paul-Minneapolis church officials need to turn over all secret archive documents to law enforcement and prosecutors. Until those who have committed sex crimes against children and those who still cover up these ‘crimes’ ( not ‘mistakes’, as is stated in this report ) nothing will change. They are only trying to do damage control and get the media off their backs. But it won’t work. The victims are not going to stay silent, because there is way too much at stake, “children’s safety”.
    Also, there is no way these task force members, who were chosen by the Rev. Reginald Whitt, the Vicar for Ministerial Standards, can be considered independent of him and the archbishop. They hired them and paid for this report.

    Once again we urge outside law enforcement to get involved, subpoena documents and investigate these crimes so that kids will be safe today within the secret archaic system.
    Judy Jones, SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

    • Submitted by Chris Bjorklund on 04/15/2014 - 08:49 am.

      Well said.

      I agree with Ms. Jones that this “report” is a whitewash of the first order. Any “report” that acknowledges repeated criminal behavior condoned by a large organization without calling for immediate law enforcement scrutiny is worse than useless.

      Indeed, 12 years on from the (even at the time) woefully tardy proclamation of zero tolerance, this firm continues in the attempt to protect its revenue stream rather than admit that it encourages and harbors criminals. I suppose that when an organization exists to perpetuate the myth of an imaginary sky being it’s easy to justify any behavior.

  2. Submitted by Michael Skiendzielewski on 04/15/2014 - 07:45 pm.

    Rev Whitt – save the priests or save the children ??

    Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis – Director of Task Force, Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
    “Canon law is very eloquent on what a bishop is supposed to do, but there is no list of Thou Shalt Nots,” says Father Reginald Whitt (2002). “These (sex abusers) are criminals, but they are our criminals and we can’t lose them. Indeed, the bishops have a duty to try to save them,” says the Rev. Reginald Whitt, professor of canon law at University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis. (2002)“……BISHOPS HAVE A DUTY TO TRY TO SAVE THEM (sex abuser priests)…..”

    Well, Fr. Whitt, where is it written (no, not in text or canon law…….it is written in one’s heart and soul) that the bishops have a duty to try to save the CHILDREN ABUSED and INNOCENT CHILDREN from the risk of abuse? Seems like little has changed since these issues were studied over a decade ago by during the Dallas Charter Charade of the USCCB. Father Whitt has a degree in canon law and civil law. Which perspective will take prominence and priority when he reviews the findings of the task force committee he established to review the debacle in the archdiocese?

    It is humanly, ethically and morally IMPOSSIBLE to avoid/resolve the conflicts of interest from both perspectives (civil and canon law) when attempting to review and support the rights of priests vs the rights of child victims.

    Michael Skiendzielewski
    Captain (retired)
    Philadelphia Police Dept.

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