Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Bishops’ national audit team to visit Spokane Diocese
by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register
(From the June 12, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)
Beginning in late June, each diocese of the United States will receive special visitors: an audit team from The Gavin Group, the firm hired by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The purpose of the visit – an audit – will be to check how well dioceses are complying with the terms of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults, which the U.S. bishops approved at their historic meeting last June.
According to Father Steve Dublinski, vicar general of the Spokane Diocese, the audit process will mean extra work, but it’s also an opportunity.
The auditors and their questions will help each diocese, including Spokane, to examine every aspect of the charter and recognize “where we have succeeded in responding to the charter, and where our response to the requirements of the charter has been weak..”
The Gavin Group is headed by Bill Gavin of Washington, D.C., a former member of the FBI. Several of the auditors themselves are also former FBI members.
All of the auditors “are interested in helping the Church move forward,” said Father Dublinski.
The full team of 50 auditors will begin their visitations June 23. Nationally, the audit is expected to be completed by the first week of November.
The individual audits will last for one week – Monday through noon the following Friday.
The Spokane Diocese does not yet know when its audit will be conducted. “Likely, we will be one of the later regions,” he said.
During their visit, the auditors will be speaking with Father Dublinski; with members of the Diocesan Review Board, which facilitates the bishop’s work with cases of sexual misconduct; as well as people outside diocesan administration, chosen by the auditors themselves.
Once the audit is completed, the results will be compiled by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. A final report of each diocese’s audit will be published and distributed to the public by the USCCB, not simply released to the individual dioceses.
The documentation itself – the auditors’ findings – will be the property of the USCCB.
The audit “is about the processes in responding to the sexual abuse of minors. It is not about the details of individual cases,” said Father Dublinski. In addition, the audit will deal only with events dating from the implementation of the charter – since June 2002. It will not examine diocesan actions or behaviors which took place prior to that time.
The vicar general said that each diocese has received preliminary copy of the audit in order to prepare for the visit. “Over the next few months, we will be putting together the documentation for the audit,” he said. If there are areas where the Spokane Diocese’s compliance has been weak, the auditors will “offer helpful suggestions” on how to better comply, he said.
Religious orders will have their own audit, according to Father Dublinski, and will not be part of this diocesan effort.
One key question the auditors will be asking: “When sexual abuse has been admitted or established, after appropriate process, does the diocese/eparchy follow a policy that requires that the offending priest or deacon be permanently removed from ministry, not to exclude a process for dismissal from the clerical state, if the case so warrants, for even a single act of sexual abuse?”
“Our answer: Absolutely,” Father Dublinski said.
Another area of examination will be diocese’s education programs on the subject of sexual abuse. Father Dublinski pointed out that the Spokane Diocese has long provided programs to various groups, including school children and for children’s religious education programs. However, there has not been as much focus on educating parents and volunteers.
He hopes that by the beginning of the school year, new programs will be in place.
Those program recommendations will be made by the newly appointed Special Assistant to the Vicar General, Mary Butler, who will be examining various educational programs for use by groups in the diocese.
Butler begins work officially Aug. 7.
Ultimately, the purpose of the audit is to help each diocese, creating an opportunity to share ideas and examining ways in which to “better respond to victims,” said Father Dublinski.
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