- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2004

Clergy sex-abuse victims were not properly interviewed nor were Catholic dioceses forthcoming in an audit to be released today, a survivors group said yesterday.

“These so-called audits are fundamentally flawed,” said Barbara Blaine, founder of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). “Essentially, bishops have defined the rules of the game, decided who plays, paid the umpires and are now declaring themselves the winners.”

Results of the 400-page audit, expected to be revealed today at the National Press Club, will detail how well the 195 U.S. Catholic dioceses are implementing the rules of a mandatory plan to locate and remove abusive priests. It was commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

However teams of the 54 auditors could only speak with persons whose names were supplied by the diocese; “given by essentially,” Miss Blaine said, “the same men who have, for decades, fought to keep the crimes of clergy concealed.”

Moreover, she said, only three members of her 4,600-member group, the nation’s largest organization of abuse victims, were interviewed. As far as SNAP can discern, auditors only talked to victims who reported their abuse after June 2002 and are not currently suing the church.

“We fear that few prosecutors, attorneys, Voice of the Faithful [a lay Catholic group] leaders or journalists were interviewed,” she said. “There probably were some, but we’ve not heard of them.”

But Kathleen McChesney, director of the USCCB Office for Child and Youth Protection, which is presenting today’s audit, said her office had free rein to talk with whomever it chose.

“The auditors selected who would be interviewed, not the bishops,” she said. “The criteria was that [victims interviewed] were people who’d come forward since the charter [in June 2002]. The audit was implementation of the charter, not a historical examination.”

She added that 191 dioceses have successfully completed their audits and another four have had their audits rescheduled.

Journalists were not interviewed, she conceded, but “lots and lots of prosecutors were. There was a protocol of the types of people to be talked to: the accused, diocesan staff, clergy, victims and others outside the diocese.”

Twenty-nine dioceses have released the number of perpetrators, she added and two (Tucson, Ariz., and Baltimore) have named the offending priests.

That is not satisfactory, SNAP representatives said.

“These auditors didn’t have carte blanche to records,” said Mark Serrano, a SNAP spokesman from Leesburg, Va. “They had manila folders given them by bishops.”

Miss Blaine said more bishops need to “open up, instead of answering minimal questions.”

“They could stop fighting the victims in courtrooms when victims are trying to obtain information,” she said, “and stop fighting prosecutors in courtrooms who are trying to get grand jury information made public.”

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