The Archdiocese of St. Louis once again fully complies with the U.S. bishops’ national policy to protect children and respond to clergy sexual abuse of children.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued its third annual report March 30 on implementing the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." The archdiocese also complied in 2003 and 2004.
The report is based on information gathered by the Gavin Group Inc. The St. Louis audit was conducted during two days in December.
Compliance means: outreach programs for victims/survivors and their families are in place; mechanisms exist to promptly respond when there is reason to believe sexual abuse of a minor has occurred; and policies require reporting allegations and cooperating with authorities.
The archdiocese was found to have completed evaluations of the background of all diocesan and parish personnel who have contact with minors. The archdiocese also was found to have adequate screening and evaluation techniques in deciding the fitness of candidates for ordination.
The audit found appropriate "safe environment" programs providing education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children.
Bernard Huger, archdiocesan attorney, called the audit "very thorough and detailed. It addresses how the archdiocese is responding to persons with a complaint, how the background checks are done and what the archdiocese is doing to prevent future incidents of abuse."
The effort is "serious and ongoing. It’s become ingrained in the fabric of the archdiocese to ensure training, prevention and detection of problems," he said.
Last year some 20,000 volunteers were given training and another 22,000 children attended safe-touch education programs.
There have been no complaints of recent cases of abuse, he said. The archdiocese has 28 cases pending where lawsuits have been filed. One case was resolved last week through mediation, Huger said.
The archdiocese’s annual report listed $1.9 million in payments associated with clergy misconduct in the 2005 fiscal year. That was a decrease of about $1 million from the previous year. About $742,000 was covered by insurance carriers. The rest was covered by archdiocesan income from real estate sales and investment earnings.
The policy is on the archdiocesan Web site at www.archstl.org.