5 problems, 6 recommendations for Twin Cities Archdiocese - KMSP-TV

5 problems, 6 recommendations for Twin Cities Archdiocese in task force report

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

A 7-member, vicar-appointed task force with the "single overriding goal" of protecting children has released its report on the handling of clergy sexual misconduct issues within the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

The report found a top-heavy power structure, a lack of oversight and accountability and the failure to follow procedures "created opportunities for some priests to harm children."

THE INVESTIGATION

The task force met 23 times between October 2013 and March 2014, reviewing thousands of pages of documents and interviewing 32 individuals -- a group that included archdiocese officials, parish priests and experts in the field of child sexual abuse.

"This report cannot undo the damage that has been done to many people within the archdiocese," the task force wrote. "The task force's hope is that our recommendations will help prevent future clergy sexual abuse of minors."

5 PROBLEMS

The investigation found "serious shortcomings" in the implementation of the Dallas Charter, which sets the standards for handling sex abuse complaints in American parishes:

Too much power at the top: "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 breakdown: "Communication within the archdiocese and with the faithful, the public, the media, and victims of abusive clergy about clergy sexual abuse of minors has been inadequate and, at times, non-existent. Information became compartmentalized which prevented decision-makers and relevant boards from knowing all the pertinent information, including early warning signs which could have suggested future problems."

Outdated record-keeping: "The archdiocese's record-keeping regarding the performance and conduct of its clergy is not comprehensive or coordinated and relies on outdated systems.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.

No monitoring: "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."

Confusing complaint process: "The archdiocese has a confusing and inadequate complaint-reporting mechanism."

6 RECOMMENDATIONS

Organizational structure: There should be a single clergy review board to review all allegations of clergy misconduct. The majority of people on the review board should be lay people. There should be a single person – the "delegate for safe environment – in charge of managing the archdiocese's response to reports of abuse.

Auditing and monitoring: A compliance program should be developed, with the help of outside consultants, to ensure the safe environment program is effective. The program should be subject to an annual, outside review from an independent auditor.

Record-keeping: The archdiocese should develop a procedure that makes all information related to clergy misconduct accessible to decision-makers and available in a centralized location. It should also create policies for saving electronic information and screening electronic devices before they are disposed of.

Complaint: The archdiocese should strengthen and expand its complaint-receiving process, using both web-based and traditional reporting mechanisms that allow for anonymous complaints. They must also protect individuals from retaliation for making complaints.

Seminary resources: The archdiocese should strengthen the candidate selection and screening process, and invite evaluation of the entire faculty, including non-clergy.

Essential Three: Enhance implementation of the "The Essential Three" components of the safe environment program by improving the background check process, expanding training, and updating codes of conduct

"We hope the archdiocese moves forward with these recommendations as quickly as possible," the task force wrote in its report. "In addition to our specific recommendations, we also urge the archdiocese to foster a culture that places victims first, as well as a culture that welcomes sincere inquiry and criticism, and seeks input from lay people."

ARCHBISHOP STATEMENT

"I thank the task force members for their clear, thoughtful and precise efforts. Their report reflects their obvious dedication to this work, as well as the comprehensive nature of the results. It will guide us in fulfilling our important goals which I have stated before and repeat now: the protection of children, the healing of victims, and the restoration of trust of the faithful and of our clergy who are serving our communities with honor."

SNAP RESPONSE

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said the report was "toned down" and full of "old news." The group also criticized the lack of an explicit recommendation to call police as part of the protocol.

"Once again we have a very lengthy Catholic church report that claims 'mistakes' have been made and implying that some minor 'tweaks' in job titles and church policies will make abuse by clergy and cover ups by bishops a problem in the past," said a statement from Barbara Dorris, outreach director of SNAP. "That is, of course, silly and deceptive."

VICAR FOR MINISTERIAL STANDARDS STATEMENT

"I have received the Safe Environment and Ministerial Standards Task Force Report and Recommendations. I am now studying the document for the purpose of developing practicable norms, structures, and procedures that will implement the Task Force's recommendations in conformity with civil and canon law. I am grateful to the Task Force members for their thorough and detailed work, which has one overarching goal: protecting children from clergy sexual abuse."

FULL REPORT: http://www.archspm.org/_uls/resources/FINAL_SEMS_Task_Force_Report.pdf

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