January 12, 2005

State and diocese argue over audit

Portsmouth Herald

By Associated Press

MANCHESTER - Ten days before they are scheduled to argue in court, the state and its Roman Catholic diocese remain at odds over how the diocese’s child protection policies and procedures should be evaluated.

The Diocese of Manchester agreed to annual audits two years ago in a deal in which the state agreed not to seek criminal indictments for failure to protect children from molesting priests. But disputes about scope and methods mean no audits have been conducted.

The dispute went to court in September. Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Carol Conboy questioned whether the sides ever reached the "meeting of the minds" required for their contract to be effective. In briefs filed for oral arguments on Jan. 20, both sides say the agreement is valid. But they continue to disagree on terms.

In the December 2002 agreement, Bishop John B. McCormack acknowledged the diocese had failed to protect children and that its handling of sexually abusive priests during the prior 40 years could have resulted in a criminal conviction.

In its brief, the diocese argues that instead of the agreed-to "compliance" audit, the state wants a "performance" audit that would assess the effectiveness of child protection policies and procedures.

The state says assessing the effectiveness of the diocese’s programs is necessary.

Posted by kshaw at January 12, 2005 01:23 PM