In a statement issued Nov. 9, Archbishop Thomas Rodi of the Archdiocese of Mobile said each of the four Catholic dioceses in Alabama and Mississippi will publish the names of clergy and religious officials who were removed from ministry due to an accusation of abuse of a minor. The list of the Archdiocese of Mobile will include accusations since 1950.
Rodi’s move toward transparency comes after renewed pressure was placed on the Catholic Church in the wake of a sprawling Pennsylvania grand jury report published in August, which documented more than 1,000 child victims of 300 abusive priests. Since then, dioceses in New Orleans, Missouri, Texas, New York and elsewhere have either been ordered to or called for similar transparency.
After child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church was broadly exposed in Boston in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) adopted the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which, among other things, recommends immediately removing any accused priest from ministry pending an investigation and reporting all allegations of abuse involving clergy to civil authorities.
But as recently as Monday, the Vatican allegedly told the USCCB to delay voting on additional measures to hold bishops accountable for failing to protect children from sexual abuse, according to several published news accounts. How the decision will affect Rodi’s announcement is unclear, but in September he wrote a column published in The Catholic Week explaining the “USCCB has no authority over any bishop,” and “any action by the USCCB is only binding on a bishop if it is approved by the Pope.”
In 2004, two years after the Boston sex abuse scandal broke, the Archdiocese of Mobile released a report on allegations within its own network, acknowledging 13 of its priests had been accused of sexual abuse of minors since 1950, with a total of 18 victims. The archdiocese also reported more than $700,000 had been paid in legal settlements, fees, victim assistance and other related expenses.
Since, as Rodi wrote in The Catholic Week, the Archdiocese of Mobile has defined and adhered to its child protection policy, which is available on its website, mobilearch.org.
“Every volunteer with contact with minors and all employees have a background check and then are trained in child protection and required to participate in an annual retraining. Every child in our Catholic schools, parish youth groups and parish religious education programs receives annual training in how to recognize, avoid and report misconduct.”
Further, Rodi noted the archdiocese has staffed a full-time employee as director of Child Protection since 2003. The position is responsible for receiving accusations of misconduct with minors, assisting the alleged victims in making the accusation and investigating the accusations.
All allegations of misconduct with minors are reported to civil authorities, Rodi wrote, but are also investigated by an independent review board comprised of people who do not work for the Archdiocese and come from “a variety of backgrounds.”
“An annual audit by an outside national firm is conducted to make certain that the Archdiocese is following the policy to which is has committed itself in order to protect minors,” Rodi wrote.
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