PORTLAND, Maine — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has been found in compliance with the standards and effectiveness of its child protection policies and practices, according to a diocese statement released Thursday.
The external audit by StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester, N.Y., examined the year ending June 30, 2011, and included visiting parishes and schools to make sure only personnel with clear background checks were working with the children, said Sue Bernard, diocese communications director, in the statement.
The audit was conducted as part of the diocese’s efforts to comply with the Bishops of the United States Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which includes mandates such as reporting allegations of sexual abuse of minors to civil authorities, thoroughly investigating complaints of abuse of minors in a timely manner, removing clergy or other church representatives who have sexually abused minors, abuse prevention training and background checks for church personnel and volunteers who work with minors, and outreach to victims and survivors of abuse.
“While it’s gratifying to know parishes and the diocese have understood and implemented the charter fully and effectively, ongoing prevention training and regular auditing are necessary to maintain safe environments for our children,” said Bishop Richard Malone of the Portland Diocese. “These steps should also act as an ‘abusers beware’ sign — that the Catholic Church is well situated to prevent and act on possible abuse reports.”
Auditors found that 100 percent of active clergy, 99 percent of all employees, including educators of the diocese, along with 99.5 percent of all volunteers who work with children have had background checks; 7,275 children had been trained in the prevention program “Think First and Stay Safe.” They also found that 99 percent of the individuals working and volunteering in the diocese, including all clergy, have been trained in the VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children Training Program. The training is given to new employees and volunteers, according to the statement.
Auditors also collected data on accusations of abuse during the audit period. Their findings were:
• Seven complaints were made relating to seven priests, four of whom are deceased. One of these four reports was not concerning a Maine priest and the abuse did not happen in Maine but the diocese provided assistance to the victim who lives in the state.
• One of the reports came from a third party, but attempts to reach the victim were unsuccessful. The abuser was not identified.
• Another report came from a third party, the reported victim was deceased and the accused had been removed from ministry earlier. This case could not be proven.
• One of the reports was against a retired priest who is not active; an investigation is ongoing.
• The claims were concerning reported incidents from the 1950s, 1970s, and most recently the early 1980s.
“This sad episode of church history will continue for as long as victims/survivors are in pain,” said Bishop Malone in the press release. “Again, I encourage anyone who has been harmed by a Church representative to make a report to civil and Church authorities.”