Two auditors combed records and interviewed numerous individuals this week to determine if the St. Louis Archdiocese complies with Church-approved safeguards for children following the priest sex-abuse scandal.
The auditors, both former FBI agents, were part of a 54-person force visiting all U.S. dioceses this summer to check on compliance with the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People" approved by American bishops last year. The bishops’ Office of Youth Protection will issue a report later this year after completing its compliance audits.
"They’re experienced individuals who’ve come in to evaluate if what we are doing is what we agreed to in the charter," Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Naumann said of the auditors. "We’re hoping it will be an affirmation that we are doing a good job, and that if deficiencies exist, they’ll help us see what they are and be a helpful part of the process," he added.
The auditors declined to give media interviews.
St. Louis archdiocesan officials have said they believed they were complying with the charter’s requirements and had put some of its safeguards in place long before the document was formally approved. The archdiocese’s Gennesaret Committee advises the Archbishop on issues of sexual abuse of minors by clergy.
Msgr. Richard Stika, vicar general of the archdiocese, said the investigators submitted a list of requirements a few weeks ago, which included documents and people to interview.
"They asked that we set up interviews with county and city prosecutors, and give them names of people willing to talk to them who have been abuse victims," Msgr. Stika said.
He said the two auditors, who acted in a "very professional ... very just" manner, began their work Monday and were expected to finish either late Thursday or early Friday, after the Review’s deadline.
Auditors asked for information "looking back to 1950 and from June 2002 (when bishops drafted the charter)," Msgr. Stika said in describing the range of information requested.
The auditors will give archdiocesan officials a preliminary report of their findings, Msgr. Stika said. He said it hadn’t yet been determined if that information could be made public before the overall report was released later this year.
"If anything needs to be improved, they’ll tell us about that. But it will be well-balanced. If we’re doing things beyond what’s required, they’ll commend us, too," Msgr. Stika said.
On the victims’ names submitted to the auditors, Msgr. Stika said: "We don’t want to re-victimize them. We left it up to the auditors (as to whom they would interview).
"I feel very confident that what we’re doing is beyond what’s required (in the charter)," Msgr. Stika said.
Last week, members of the bishops’ National Review Board, which is overseeing dioceses’ compliance with the charter, discussed the ongoing audits of the nation’s 195 dioceses in a press briefing in Chicago.
The head of the audit and compliance committee, Ray Siegfried, said then that the auditors "are not choirboys," meaning that they’re doing an independent examination.
The auditors work for the Gavin Group of Boston, which the National Review Board has contracted for the compliance checks.
Kathleen McChesney, the former FBI agent named by the bishops to oversee the Office of Youth Protection, said at last week’s press briefing that officials were devising an auditing system for future years past this original audit.
National Review Board member Robert Bennett told the media last week that he thought it would be difficult in the future for any diocesan official to cover up any child abuse considering the charter’s compliance requirements.
Officials said then that some diocesan audits determined some non-compliance.
Some information for this article was taken from the transcript of a press briefing by members of the National Review Board in Chicago on July 29.