Raising the Bar in Boston
Comment from Ann Carroll, VOTF Paulist Center, Boston
It is increasingly clear to me that the events in Chicago are reverberating
in dioceses across the country (most pew Catholics outside Chicago have no
idea what is transpiring in the Windy City, but members of the hierarchy, from
the US to Rome, are clearly paying close attention.) Two noteworthy examples
appeared in a press release from Boston’s Cardinal-designate O’Malley
yesterday. The press release announced that the annual audit by the USCCB’s
Office of Child and Youth Protection (OCYP) revealed that Boston was in compliance with 16 of the 17 Articles of the Charter. Boston
was deemed to be in non-compliance of part B of Article 12, which requires
safe environment training for all children.
What is significant is that the OCYP is raising the bar for compliance.
In the 2004 audits, which were released on Feb. 18, 2005, a diocese was considered
fully compliant (with Article 12b) merely if safe environment programs had
been “selected and scheduled, but not fully implemented.” Hence,
since Boston had a plan for training children, it was deemed fully compliant.
Now, it appears the rules have changed - the OCYP’s new threshold for
compliance is that the training must have occurred.
VOTF has long voiced concern that the Charter standards were too low, and
not sufficiently expansive. To their credit, the OCYP, through their recommendations
in their annual report, have shown progress towards bolstering the entire process.
Since Chicago was also deemed to be compliant in the 2004 audit (although
only after taking required actions to develop plans for safe environment training
background checks), the OCYP/NRB must now explain how it is possible that Chicago
passed the 2004 audit, in light of the numerous deficiencies revealed in the
Defenbaugh Report. (Did the OCYP’s auditors overlook the problems, or
were they auditing the wrong things?) Now is the time for National VOTF to put pressure on the OCYP and National
Review Board to push harder for stricter and more comprehensive audits.
In a related move, the other noteworthy news in Sean O’Malley’s
press release is his announcement that he has asked a local (lay-dominated)
Advisory Committee to conduct an assessment of the Archdiocese’s own
procedures. In essence, he is calling for a Defenbaugh-like review of Boston’s procedures. This seems like a preemptory
move, since no one can read the Defenbaugh Report and not wonder if similar
problems exist in their own diocese! The OCYP has long acknowledged the need
for audits which would test the efficacy of diocesan programs - now is the
time to demand this be done, in every diocese.
In the meantime, I urge VOTF affiliate leaders to examine the Defenbaugh Report
and their own diocese’s child protection and survivor support policies
and determine if your affiliate/council ought to call for a similar efficacy
audit in your own diocese.