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

Diocese compiles, publicizes statistics related to sexual abuse claims

by Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor, Inland Register

(From the April 28, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

The Diocese of Spokane recently compiled and released a summary of statistics pertaining to sexual abuse claims against the diocese.

Compiling the numbers served several purposes, said Father Steve Dublinski, Vicar General.

First, the statistics provide harsh, black-and-white illumination of the situation so far. Understanding the breadth and depth of the situation reinforces its importance as a priority of diocesan life and ministry.

Second, the report helps deliver the message of what’s been done in the past. It provides a basis for present and future action as well.

“Over and over again, Bishop Skylstad has asserted his commitment to openness and transparency,” said Father Dublinski. “He has backed that up with concrete action, publicly and privately. Over and over again, the bishop and the diocese have been accused of cover-up, of secrecy.

“Those kinds of accusations sometimes are made more out of anger and pain than out of fact,” said Father Dublinski. “That’s tragic, and it’s understandable. But with the release of this information, we all hope that we can help people truly see just how committed this diocese remains to transparency and to action. Those aren’t just words,” he said. “Those are promises.”

The complete statistical breakdown is posted on the diocese’s web site: www.dioceseofspokane. org. (Click on “A Safe Net for Children and Youth.”)

Some 140 claimants, most male, have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse against priests and Religious of and/or serving in the Diocese of Spokane.

Claims are broken down into four categories: Claims settled prior to the diocese’s Chapter 11 filing in December 2004; unresolved claims in litigation; unresolved claims not in litigation, from individuals represented by counsel; and unresolved claims not in litigation, from individuals not represented by counsel.

The earliest accusation of abuse dates back to 1932-36; the most recent, 1982-89. The largest damages claimed: $8 million. The least amount of damages claimed: $25,000. In most of the cases, the damage claim is unknown.

Not all those who have reported sexual abuse to the diocese have wanted their name revealed, a request honored by the diocese. Some claimants have not requested that the alleged abuser’s name be released, for a variety of reasons; in at least one instance, the alleged abuser is deceased; in another, the individual is deceased, and was not a priest of the Spokane Diocese to begin with.

“The statistics are as clear as we can make them,” said Father Dublinski. “From the date of the alleged abuse, to the date of the report to the diocese and, when applicable, the dates and amounts of settlements, these facts and figures are clear indicators of the bishop’s commitment to resolving valid claims – with justice, equity, and fairness.”

The information helps everyone understand the situation, said Father Dublinski. Understanding can help assure it never happens again.

By releasing the information to the secular media, perhaps the country’s consciousness can be raised a bit, too, in terms of the extent of sexual abuse throughout American life and culture. It is a tragic situation that infects not just Churches – and not just Catholic churches – but schools, youth organizations and, most of all, families, regardless of social or economic standing. Understanding the extent of the problem is the first step in recognizing the problem, and then doing something about it.

“Knowledge is power,” said Father Dublinski. “Shared knowledge is shared power.”

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