March 10, 2005

Victim advocate raps diocese audit

Telegram & Gazette

By Kathleen A. Shaw Telegram & Gazette Staff

WORCESTER— Daniel Dick, victim support coordinator for Voice of the Faithful in the Diocese of Worcester, has criticized the manner in which theAbuse Tracker Review Board, based in Washington, D.C., conducted its audit of the diocese to monitor compliance with the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Mr. Dick has also written to the local diocesan review board asking that he and at least one victim of clergy sexual abuse meet with the board while it does its own review of the charter. The charter expires this year and bishops and a number of groups, including Voice of the Faithful, are reviewing the charter to see what has worked and what might be improved.

In a letter to lawyer Sylvia L. Pusateri, who heads the review board, Mr. Dick said he believes he and the victims have “considerable experience” in dealing with clergy sexual abuse and that they have recommendations for improving the charter and audit process they want to present to the board.

The audit was done in December by the Gavin Group of Boston, on behalf of the review board. The board said recently that the Worcester diocese was in full compliance with the charter and no problems were found.

Mr. Dick said he called and sent an e-mail to the review board at theAbuse Tracker Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington. He spoke with Sheila Kelly, deputy director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection. Ms. Kelly recently confirmed that she spoke with Mr. Dick, but said her agency does not discuss publicly specific issues brought to it.

Mr. Dick said he believes the local diocese has not complied with the charter in some areas.

“The general public of Worcester, including families and children, do not know where the convicted and accused abusers are living,” he said. He said the accused priests are “free to come and go as they please” and get a monthly stipend from the diocese.

“The claim that they are ‘supervised’ by their bishop is a hollow one,” he said.

Bishop Robert J. McManus is “not cooperating” with civil authorities as required by the charter, Mr. Dick said. He said the diocese is actively working to dismiss suits pending in Worcester Superior Court that were brought by alleged victims, rather than working to get settlements. He said the diocese is arguing that the bishop’s authority over clergy “supercedes that of our civil authority in such cases. Our general community is aghast at the gall exhibited by this submission.”

“A victim in this diocese is not allowed to talk with the bishop until he has ‘settled’ with the diocesan lawyer and the insurance company lawyer. A victim’s first real contact is with these lawyers, not with the bishop,” he said. Mr. Dick has served in the victim support role and has met with several alleged victims since the local VOTF chapter was formed in 2002.

Mr. Dick said Bishop McManus recently sent letters to some alleged victims offering to meet with them, but only a few people are known to have received the letters.

Mr. Dick, who favors establishment of a restorative justice program in this area to assist victims, said the charter calls for such a program.

“The Diocese of Worcester has rejected such a program, including the one that our local VOTF proposed over a year ago,” he said.

Mr. Dick asked the review board to “reinvestigate” information it was given by the Worcester Diocese. “You are not getting the whole story or the whole truth,” Mr. Dick said. He suggested that the auditors speak to lay people of the diocese and to members of VOTF and Call to Action, two organizations of Catholic lay people.

Diocesan spokesman Raymond L. Delisle said, “Mr. Dick’s concerns revolved around two points. First, he is concerned with a process agreed to by nearly 200 dioceses around the country, which was seen as a major step forward in demonstrating how dioceses are addressing this issue.”

Mr. Delisle said the Worcester diocese agreed with the process “and complied with it for two audits in a row.”

“If having reviewed all records under the scrutiny of two different sets of former FBI agents is not credible enough for some, then I would suggest that no action will be sufficient for them. For most people, this is seen as complying in good faith,” Mr. Delisle said.

“Secondly, he seems to lack confidence in our own civil authorities, since all allegations we have received have been turned over to the district attorney. It is up to civil authorities to assess any risks and respond within the laws of this commonwealth. Is anyone asking that the church act above the law? Or that society not afford the same laws to clergy as it does to other citizens who have been accused of wrongdoing but who for whatever reason have not been tried in court?” Mr. Delisle asked.

“Mr. Dick seems to confuse civil and criminal cases by implying that we are trying to avoid civil authorities in civil suits. Beyond that, each civil case is addressed individually according to its own circumstances. There are not, nor have there ever been, criminal cases against the Diocese of Worcester,” he added.

“Finally, the audit process confirms that we are focused on promoting healing. To that end, the Office of Healing and Prevention has done a great deal working with victims. That work has been led by a victim services coordinator who is a clinical social worker with decades of experience and who is highly regarded by all agencies in Central Massachusetts. Since we comply with the charter in all areas, and have for two audits, perhaps it is Mr. Dick who is misunderstanding how justice is promoted through the charter.

Additionally, all victims who come to the diocese have met with a team who are members of the Diocesan Review Committee in presenting their complaint,” Mr. Delisle said.

Mr. Dick said he has also asked Bishop McManus to turn over the working materials used in the audit.

He said Ms. Kelly told him the American bishops are not of one mind on implementation of the charter but that implementation is up to each bishop. Ms. Kelly said she would take his recommendation to the full review board and get back to him, Mr. Dick said.

Mr. Dick said he intends to ask Bishop McManus to turn over the diocese’s 2004 audit “in its entirety,” along with results of the first audit done in 2003.

Posted by kshaw at March 10, 2005 04:18 AM