The nation's Catholic Bishops commissioned an audit of their new anti-abuse policy, and the details were released today under the strange headline "Catholic Sex-Abuse Report Finds Mixed Results". I say strange because according to the report 90% of US dioceses were found to be in compliance with the new policy... that sounds like a pretty solid result to me. Now, some critics say that both the new policy and the audit are flawed and insufficient, but that's a different issue.
The prelates commissioned the report from the Gavin Group (search) of Boston, a firm led by former FBI official William Gavin, and the investigation was overseen by Kathleen McChesney, a former top FBI agent and head of the bishops' watchdog Office of Child and Youth Protection (search).I'm not sure why the Catholic church keeps trying to treat this cancer with band-aids, but that's how it looks to a lot of people. I think the problem is that the bishops aren't giving this issue enough weight as they're trying to determine how to balance it against their other concerns.
Victim advocates said bishops had too much control of how the audit was conducted, so it should be viewed skeptically.
The bishops recommended whom the auditors should interview. And according to the report, auditors were unable to view personnel files that would verify whether bishops were complying with the policy's ban on transferring offenders from one diocese to another.
"This is the bishops grading themselves based on a test they devised," said Peter Isely, of the Midwest chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (search). "I don't think anyone is going to be too surprised that after years of chronic failure they are now going to tell us they have miraculously become star performers."I don't know what laws he's referring to, but I don't see how personnel records could be held private from internal auditors. It's good to protect the privacy of people -- and I certainly wouldn't want the government snooping into personnel records -- but it wouldn't seem unreasonable to me for a private organization like the Catholic church to put reputational concerns ahead of the privacy of its workers.
However, Gavin insisted the audits were comprehensive and accurate. Investigators did not view personnel records because of "sensitivity to laws and privacy violations that may occur." Otherwise, he said, "we had free rein."
Basically, the problem in my mind is that it doesn't look like the Catholic bishops are doing all they can do; it looks like they're trying to do the minimum possible. That's not what people like to see.
There's another study coming out in February:
A second and potentially more important study, also commissioned by the bishops, is scheduled to be released Feb. 27. It will attempt to tally every church abuse case in the country since 1950.I'm interested to see if this later study will include a demographic breakdown of the victims, including age, gender, city of residence, race, and so forth. If the Catholic church wants to overcome this problem, this information will be necessary to really understand what's going on.