Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

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

Diocesan audit: Examining the record means good news for us all

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the Nov. 13, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)


It’s one of those words that automatically strikes fear, doesn’t it? Maybe not like the phrase “oral surgery,” but still.

Audits are now being completed of the dioceses of the United States. In June 2002 the U.S. bishops adopted their charter for the protection of children and vulnerable adults; it was approved by the Vatican; and now the bishops are being audited by an independent firm to see just how well the dioceses are doing in complying with the terms of the charter.

A number of the individuals working on the audits are former employees of the FBI. They probably know a thing or two about auditing.

And while the idea of someone looking over your shoulder while you work isn’t necessarily the image of a dream date, it’s good to know that the bishops are doing this. Even better, it’s good to know that the results of the audit will be made public.

The Diocese of Spokane is no exception — the auditors visited last month. They interviewed individuals, examined documentation, got a sense of how well we’re doing here, and collected evidence to back up their impressions and our assertions. They interviewed diocesan employees as well as victims of abuse. Members of SNAP (Survivors’ Network for Those Abused by Priests) were asked to fill out a survey. The results of that survey – direct input from members of SNAP – were given to the auditors.

Over and over again, Bishop Skylstad has stated his commitment to openness and transparency. In a sense, that commitment is not really news; for instance, this is a diocese that has been publishing its annual financial report in the Inland Register for over 10 years. Names of living priests removed from ministry for sexual misconduct were printed in the IR last November. The diocese, under certain conditions, also releases the names of deceased priests who are the subject of credible accusations of abuse. Most recently this occurred in the IR’s Oct. 2, 2003 edition.

The consistent effort and commitment were not lost upon the auditors. The Diocese of Spokane received no suggestions for improvement and, in fact, was given two commendations for its work with the police and for its outreach to victims. Of special note was a comment about the diocese’s Safe Environment program, termed “one of the better” programs the auditors had seen in their work.

Lavish communication is nothing new in this diocese. The material assembled for the auditors, the reports, the examples, just presents concrete evidence of what has been going on, and continues, a pattern of accountability and honesty in dealing with the church community as well as the larger civil community.

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