Catholic World News News Feature
National Review Board praises US bishops' programs December 14, 2007
The National Review Board (NRB)-- set up by the US bishops' conference to monitor Church efforts to combat the sexual abuse of children-- has issued a 5-year report citing progress but calling for continued efforts.
"Bishops have taken a strong approach to dealing with this crisis,” said Judge Michael Merz, the chairman of the lay board, in introducing the group's report. As evidence the NRB cited the audits that have been conducted in nearly all American dioceses, measuring the bishops' compliance with the national policies that they established in 2002.
[The full report from the NRB is available on the web site of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.]
The NRB praised the audit process, the background checks on Church workers and volunteers, and the educational programs that have been introduced to warn children about the possibility of abuse. The 5-year report noted that move than 6 million children have been enrolled in such educational programs, and 1.6 million background investigations have been conducted.
"What the audits do not measure," the NRB cautioned, "is the quality of the work that the dioceses and parishes are doing." To resolve that question the group called for more audits, including random audits at the parish level, and "work toward establishing best practices in educational programs, victim care, background checks, and investigation of allegations."
The NRB report also recommended new work to appraise the effects of the scandal on parishes, which can "also become victims of sexual abuse." And the report noted that the scandal has taken a heavy toll on morale among priests. "Most priests never have abused a child or even someone’s trust in them, but they bear shame by association," said Judge Merz. "It’s not right, but that’s the fact." The report noted "a particular need to provide appropriate protection and restoration for those accused but later found innocent."