PORTLAND, Maine — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has been found to be in full compliance with the nationally mandated child protection policies and practices for the third year in a row.
The on-site audit confirmed the diocese is in compliance regarding reporting procedures to civil authorities, outreach to victims-survivors, removal of offending priests from ministry, and establishment of safe environment programs among other requirements, according to a press release issued Tuesday by the diocese.
Parishes and schools were included in the audit in order to verify that only trained adults who received background checks are working with children and that they know how to report abuse, diocesan spokeswoman Sue Bernard said.
The audit team commended the diocese for its commitment to protecting children and for effective procedures that are permanently part of the church’s operations, according to the press release.
“The Gavin Group was thorough and professional and our discussions with them were very helpful as we work to improve our programs and procedures,” Bishop Richard Malone said. “It is gratifying to see everyone involved prioritize the safety of children now and the future.”
The independent audit evaluates the effectiveness of child protection policies and practices and reviewed the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009.
The diocese has required background checks since 2003 for all clergy and employees, as well as volunteers who work with children. Also, more than 12,200 people working and volunteering in the diocese have been trained in the “Protecting God’s Children Program.”
This year, 100 percent of clergy, seminarians and educators received the training, as well as 98 percent of all employees and volunteers who work with children, according to the diocese. This prevention training is ongoing because of the turnover of volunteers and employees.
During the audit period, 98 percent of all children attending Catholic schools and 67 percent of children attending religious education classes had received sexual abuse prevention training through the “Think First, Stay Safe” program for a total of 8,532. Parents of the children who did not receive the training opted out of the program, according to Bernard.
Eleven individuals came forward during the audit period with accusations of sexual abuse that date back 30 to 70 years, she said. The claims involved nine priests: four who are deceased; one who was laicized years before the complaint was received; two who had been restricted from public ministry; and one who could not be identified as a priest who had served in the diocese.
Nine of the complaints have been investigated and the process completed, according to Bernard, and six of the accusations have been substantiated.
Malone said that he continues to pray for all victim-survivors and encourages them to make reports to the church and civil authorities in order to receive support and assistance and to ensure that any individual who poses a threat to minors is not actively involved in ministry of any kind.