Contact: Suzanne Morse 617-680-2131, firstname.lastname@example.org
For Immediate Release
Statement by Voice of the Faithful Regarding
National Review Board Audits
Newton, MA - January 6, 2004 - The release today of the National Review Board’s “audit” of all U.S. dioceses as commissioned by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is a small, but important step in restoring confidence that the Catholic Church in the future will operate with greater transparency to prevent the abuse of children.
“The commitment to public accountability is central to the bishops’ public commitment to end the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church” said Jim Post, president of VOTF in Boston, MA. “This is a test of whether they are actually ‘walking the talk.’ The public is entitled to expect full accountability in light of the magnitude of the crisis.”
“We are pleased that the Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP) fulfilled its commitment to conduct these audits and included recommendations to improve the effectiveness of the Charter. They provide a foundation to build upon and to develop a more transparent and expanded process for survivor and lay input,” said Steve Krueger, Executive Director of VOTF. “At the same time, we recognize that the audits only provide a narrow test of the issues that need to be addressed in protecting children, providing justice for survivors, and restoring trust in the Church.”
“Most of the bishops did participate and provide information as part of this process. However, we were sorry to see that some bishops did not participate, and that the degrees of enthusiasm and openness for participating and sharing facts were uneven,” said Post. “Another round of audits is essential and improvement in the audit protocol by having greater participation of survivors and laity is urgently needed.”
“The laity cannot be satisfied that all is well. Justice has still not been done to thousands of survivors of sexual abuse, and the safety of today's children cannot be assured in churches and schools. While we know that the systems are now in place to protect children in many dioceses, it is imperative that the culture of secrecy which pervades many dioceses be overcome so that these systems can be used effectively,” continued Post.
VOTF Calls For Full Release of Audits, Implementation of Child Safety Programs
Voice of the Faithful is calling on every bishop to release the results of the written report provided to him by the OCYP in its entirety. The OCYP is releasing a two-page summary of each diocese it evaluated. VOTF believes that each of the bishops have an obligation to provide his parishioners with as much information as possible about the safety of their parishes.
In addition, VOTF is also calling on the Catholic faithful to educate themselves on the Charter and the Revised Norms that the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed in 2002 to protect children and young people from clergy sexual abuse, and the results of the OCYP audits in their dioceses.
Finally, Voice of the Faithful is calling for the vigorous and effective implementation of educational diocesan programs to protect children and young people. Safe environments cannot be assumed until these programs are fully implemented and audited. Bishops must insist that all dioceses comply with implementation of these programs and must provide the necessary funds and resource to ensure their implementation. Furthermore, the laity should be involved on both the parish and diocesan levels to foster the programs and to help create the safe environments
VOTF acknowledges that the Report provides extensive set of  recommendations that will, if adopted by the USCCB and implemented in individual dioceses, help close important gaps. Of special importance is the recommendation that the bishops publicly describe the process through which they will hold themselves accountable for adherence to the Essential Norms. [item 8.2 - page 29]
Thousands of cases of clergy sexual abuse took place because an unholy system of authority, secrecy, and power permitted cases abuse to go unreported. Bishops concealed the truth and predators were protected. “That culture of secrecy must be broken so that greater transparency in other issues, such as Church finances, parish closings, and the like, also receive full lay participation and involvement to assure that no opportunities for abuse exist in these areas either,” said Krueger.
“Today is a good day - but it is not a day to celebrate victory by any means,” said Post. “Vigilance and much greater lay involvement are still required. It will take sustained efforts to change a system that has so badly failed children, parents, and the values our Church proclaims. We welcomed Bishop Wilton Gregory’s call on Sunday for greater community involvement in these issues, and we are looking forward to finding ways to work with him and the other bishops to create positive change within the Church.”
About Voice of the Faithful: Voice of the Faithful (VOTF) is a worldwide movement of concerned mainstream Catholics formed in response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis. The group's mission is to provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. Its goals are to support victim/survivors of abuse, support priests of integrity, and shape structural change within the Catholic Church in full accordance and harmony with Church teaching. VOTF’s supporting membership exceeds 30,000 registered persons from more than 41 U.S. states, 21 countries and 188 Parish Voice affiliates throughout the world.