A recent internal audit in the Catholic Church has highlighted continued shortcomings with the religious organization’s vetting of priests and other employees or volunteers.
Per a column published by The Morning Call, the audit came from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. In 2002, the Conference released a set of rules—the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People—to ensure that Catholic bishops were doing their part to prevent abuse within the church. Each year, the Conference audits dioceses and eparchies throughout the United States to check how well bishops are complying with the rules. (Dioceses and eparchies are both terms for provinces in the Catholic Church.)
The audit found both improvements (a “heightened sense of urgency and focus” in preventing abuse) and ongoing problems and challenges. Among them was an ongoing failure by some dioceses and eparchies to conduct background checks on priests, employees, and volunteers that work with children. Several eparchies even outright refused to participate in the audit.
In total, the Conference audited 194 of the 197 dioceses and eparchies in the United States. 122 of those audits took place through questionnaires, and 72 were in-person site visits. 14 percent of the dioceses or eparchies surveyed will require follow-up visits due to lax protections for minors.
99.3 percent of priests at the surveyed dioceses and eparchies have completed background checks on record. The bad news is that the Conference has found higher rates of vetted priests in 2012 and 2013. The rate of compliance with background check rules has decreased since.
The audit found other problems, too. Some dioceses and eparchies had not properly trained staff or volunteers to work with children. Others did not have monitoring programs in place to keep an eye on clergy members who had been removed due to misconduct. In some cases, bishops struggled in getting survey responses from their parishes or schools. One diocese in Lincoln, Nebraska was lambasted for failing to have “open and transparent communications to the public regarding allegations of sexual abuse of minors by the clergy, especially in those parishes that may have been affected.”
The audit report concluded that the findings indicated “a lack of diligence that puts children’s safety at risk.”
For an in-depth understanding of the importance of background checks at religious organizations, read our white paper on the subject.