Archdiocese found in compliance on abuse prevention

BRIGHTON -- The Archdiocese of Boston announced April 10 its full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

The Gavin Group conducted a full, independent audit that found the archdiocese in compliance with 12 of the 13 articles of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) charter, according to an archdiocesan statement. The 2006 audit year ended on June 30, 2006. By Dec. 31, 2006, the archdiocese was brought into full compliance in all categories.

Beginning in 2006 the audit no longer covered the calendar year but rather the 12-month period that began in July. The 2007 audit will include data from July 2006 to June 2007.

During an interview with The Pilot on April 10, Father John Connolly, special assistant to Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, said, “We have made considerable progress over the course of the last year.”

That progress has been steady with all but a very small number of parishes completing training for all of their religious education students. According to Father Connolly, this instruction is the most difficult part of the charter to implement because of the variety of religious education teaching methods throughout the archdiocese.

The archdiocese was found in full compliance in both 2003 and 2004 after the U.S. bishops adopted the child protection policy in 2002.

After again achieving compliance in 2005, the Archdiocese of Boston became eligible to perform a self-audit, however Cardinal O’Malley requested the independent review. That year the USCCB raised the standards, and the archdiocese was found in compliance with 16 out of 17 articles of the charter. At the time, the archdiocese had not yet trained all children in Catholic schools and religious education programs.

This year the Gavin Group randomly selected 30 parishes of the archdiocese to conduct on-site audits. The parish-level audits are more extensive than any other diocese, Father Connolly said.

“Eight of the audited parishes still have not fully satisfied one component of Article 12 of the charter, which requires implementation of safe environment programs for children in religious education programs and training adults who work with children,” the statement said.

Of those eight parishes, seven have not completed the training of children in their religious education courses and one has not completed the training of its adult volunteers.

“The archdiocese, through its Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight, is conducting an outreach program to support parishes as they work to complete the training program,” the statement said.

Archdiocesan parishes and schools report more than 177,000 children as well as over 164,000 archdiocesan clergy, employees, volunteers and parents have been trained through safe environment programs, the statement said.

“Our continuing efforts to protect children have resulted in significant progress,” said Cardinal O’Malley in the statement. “While much has been achieved, I recognize that work must be done in order to maintain safe environments in both our churches and schools. Protecting our children and preventing sexual abuse remains paramount, and we will continue to work diligently as we strive to ensure our children’s safety.”

Mary Jane Doherty, a member of the archdiocese’s Implementation and Oversight Advisory Committee and special assistant to the president at Regis College, told The Pilot on April 11 that the education of children and all who work with them in the archdiocese is comprehensive.

“It is certainly good news that the Archdiocese of Boston has passed the audit conducted by Mr. Gavin. Just submitting to the audit voluntarily is indicative of the commitment that Cardinal O’Malley has and that the people of the Church of Boston have to making sure we have a safe environment,” she said.

A great deal of time and energy goes into implementing the best practices for training children in an age-appropriate way, she added.

In addition to the current curricula, called “Talking about Touching,” the Office of Child Advocacy is working to identify other successful programs used throughout the country. It is hoped the effort will lead to more options for those parishes that have not yet implemented a program, Father Connolly said.

In other news released this week, a survey conducted in conjunction with the 2006 audit found that clergy sexual abuse has dropped 34 percent nationwide since 2004. The survey was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.

The trend is reflected in the Archdiocese of Boston as well, Father Connolly said.

“From 2004 to 2005, the number of allegations here in the archdiocese went down by a third,” he said. “From 2005 to the 2006 audit, that number declined by half.”

Father Connolly also noted that none of the allegations brought to the archdiocese in 2006 involved accusations of recent abuse.

“There are no allegations that we received this year that had to do with any contemporaneous behavior or allegations of behavior,” he said.