Internal church memo shows delays in priest announcements

Internal church memo shows delays in priest announcements

In a recent memo to Philly priests (below), a bishop says "Not all investigations (into priests accused of sexually abusing kids) will be completed at the same time; therefore, it is anticipated that three to five cases will be announced at a time."

That's irresponsible.

The minute Catholic officials think a priest is credibly accused, they should tell parents, parishioners and the public. To sit on this kind of information, for even one day, keeps kids needlessly at risk.

Time and time again, church staffers keep such determinations secret until it's advantageous for them to disclose it. Sometimes they wait until 5 p.m. on the Friday of a holiday weekend.

Sometimes, they'll wait until they have a chance to notify parishioners first, putting their 'spin' on the news. Sometimes, they'll wait until the Vatican takes action against two or three or four pedophile priests.

But in every case, the minute a child sex abuse allegation against a priest, nun, bishop, seminarian, brother or lay employee is deemed "credible," Catholic officials must disclose this. Delays for any reason - particularly for public relations benefits - are dangerous and immoral.

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)      

Contact - David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, SNAPclohessy@aol.com), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, SNAPblaine@gmail.com), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, peterisely@yahoo.com), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)

ARCHDIOCESE OF PHILADELPHIA
OFFICE OF THE VICAR FOR CLERGY
222 North Seventeenth Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103-1299
(215) 587-4532 Fax (215) 587-3807

VICAR FOR CLERGY
MEMORANDUM
TO: All Priests of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia
FROM: Most Reverend Daniel E. Thomas
Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia
Reverend Monsignor Daniel J. Sullivan
Vicar for Clergy
DATE: August 18, 2011
RE: Informational Update

We share the following update regarding our priests on administrative leave, as well as efforts to include the presbyterate in the continuing response to the Grand Jury Report.

Part One: Update Regarding Priests on Administrative Leave Following the Grand Jury Report

As you know, the February 2011 Grand Jury Report raised concerns about a number of priests. In response, the Archdiocese retained Gina Maisto Smith, Esq., a former child abuse prosecutor with over 15 years of experience, to examine the cases and assist Cardinal Justin Rigali by making recommendations as to suitability for ministry.

You will recall that the cases represent a broad range, from allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to complaints of violations of The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries (http://bit.ly/AOPministerialstandards). Among the cases are some that the Review Board previously evaluated and found to be unsubstantiated. Mrs. Smith's first task was to conduct a high level review of the cases. Upon receiving her recommendations, Cardinal Rigali placed some of the priests on administrative leave in March pending further investigation of the complaints against them.

I. The Multi-Disciplinary Team
Mrs. Smith gathered a multi-disciplinary team (MDT) of experts in the field of child sexual abuse to assist with the comprehensive examination of the cases. It is a standard practice within the field of child sexual abuse to utilize an MDT. An MDT approach ensures the best investigation possible, particularly in cases of this nature which often involve word-against-word testimony, delayed reporting, psychological issues on both sides of the allegations, and a lack of physical evidence.

The MDT includes:
Forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Barbara Ziv, M.D., who has made hundreds of assessments of sex offenders for a range of courts across the region and plays a key role in forensic interviews of the accused priests.

Psychologist, Dr. Barry Zakireh, Ph.D., who specializes in evaluating and treating sex offenders and oversees the Adult Offenders and Forensic Evaluations Programs at the Joseph J. Peters Institute in Philadelphia.

Pediatrician, Dr. Maria McColgan, M.D., who leads the child abuse unit at Saint Christopher's Hospital for Children, provides expertise on child development, which is essential to weighing the testimony of those alleging abuse at a young age.

Former Philadelphia Police Officers Thomas McDevitt and Harry Young, who were both assigned for more than a dozen years to the Special Victims Unit of the Philadelphia Police Department and assist with interviews and investigative research.

II. The Multi-Disciplinary Team Process
The process includes investigative interviews of the priests, of the victims or accusers, and of witnesses as well as appropriate psychological and psychiatric examinations, etc. The investigations and psychological/psychiatric assessments are conducted in a confidential manner. The priests and the victim or accusers are given the opportunity but are not required to participate in the process.

The MDT will provide recommendations to the Archbishop on a rolling basis over the next several months. All cases are under some level of investigation at this time. Not all investigations will be completed at the same time; therefore, it is anticipated that three to five cases will be announced at a time.

III. Supporting Priests on Administrative Leave
Through the Office for Clergy, the Archdiocese provides support to those priests on administrative leave in a variety of ways. Priests on leave are provided:

Salary and benefits.
Assurance of housing.
An opportunity to receive counseling should they feel it is needed to assist them during this difficult time.
A canon lawyer provided by the Archdiocese, or they have the option to obtain one on their own.
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The priest and his Canon lawyer are free to review his personnel files and the accusation or complaint against him.
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The priest will have the opportunity to submit written statements before the MDT makes any recommendation to the Archbishop.
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In conducting its investigation, the MDT is applying the standards of review that were jointly recommended by the USCCB National Review Board, the USCCB Committee on the Protection of Children and Young People, and the USCCB Committee on Canonical Affairs and Church Governance. A number of Archdiocesan priests have been attending to each of our priests on administrative leave to offer fraternal care, a listening ear, and to check on their general welfare on a regular basis. In addition, the Clergy Support Associate meets with the priests to ensure their compliance with the conditions of their administrative leave and to see that their needs and concerns are
addressed by the Office for Clergy.

Part Two: Informing and Including the Presbyterate in the Continuing Grand Jury Response

Following Cardinal Rigali's meetings with all priests in the six vicariates during the month of March, the Office for Clergy arranged meetings that took place in each vicariate facilitated by Ms. Mary Achilles, Victim Services Consultant, and Father Gerard McGlone, S.J., Ph.D., Executive Director of Consultation, Education and Research at Saint John Vianney Center, during the month of July. The purpose was to talk to priests about what they needed personally to respond following the Grand Jury Report and what they needed in their pastoral ministry to assist their parishioners.

The themes that were raised by the priests present were summarized by Father McGlone and sent to the Vicar for Clergy. As a result of the issues raised by our priests, the Cardinal and the bishops asked that two focus groups be convened. Both focus groups are comprised of three priests from each vicariate.

I. Focus Group on Parish Restoration Plan
The first focus group will be held in late August and facilitated by the Vicar for Clergy, who will be assisted by Mary Achilles and Father McGlone. At that time, the regional vicars, along with the three priest representatives from each vicariate, will review the draft Parish Restoration Plan. The plan is being developed to ensure the best possible pastoral care for those parish communities directly affected by the administrative leave of a priest regardless of the eventual determination in each unique case.

II. Focus Group on Draft Process and Procedures for Handling Allegations of Sexual Abuse and Violations of The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries
The second focus group will be held in early September and facilitated by the Vicar for Clergy, who will be assisted by Mr. Al Toczydlowski, Delegate for Investigations, Mary Achilles, and Father McGlone. At this gathering, the regional vicars will be joined by the three other priest representatives from each vicariate to provide input regarding the draft processes and procedures developed for handling allegations moving forward. The drafts to be considered have been shared with the College of Consultors and the Council of Priests. The ongoing development of these drafts is the result of the input and expertise of canon lawyers, civil lawyers, victim advocates, the Delegate for Investigations, priests, and the Archdiocesan Review Board. We hope that this information is helpful to you. Going forward, we will continue to provide future informational updates. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact the Office for Clergy at (215) 587-4532.

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