Bishop releases action plan to address clergy child sex abuse
Bishop David Zubik has created a five-point plan of action for the Diocese of Pittsburgh to address concerns raised during a series of “listening sessions” held following last year’s release of a grand jury report chronicling decades of child sexual abuse by Catholic clergy.
The action plan contained in a pastoral letter titled “The Church Healing” that was released on Monday “goes beyond issues directly related to sexual abuse” to address: accountability and transparency in church governance, spiritual and human formation for clergy and seminarians, and providing additional channels for parishioners to bring their concerns to the bishop.
The bishop said some of the steps carry on and strengthen long-standing practices while others are new initiatives. At the forefront of the steps being developed is a focus on helping victims of clergy sex abuse.
“Victims/survivors and their loved ones have been instrumental in helping me to define these steps,” Zubik wrote. “Victims/survivors will continue to shape our diocesan response to assist those who have been abused, to strengthen our efforts to prevent future abuse by any representative of the church, and to restore whatever is broken in the body of Christ.”
The measures in the action plan includes:
• Streamlining and strengthening “longstanding diocesan programs” with new initiatives that include establishment of a Secretariat for the Protection of Children, Youth and Vulnerable Adults who will receive allegations of clergy sexual abuse and coordinate the response from the diocese.
The Secretariat also will help parishes provide spiritual and emotional support to victims; oversee background checks and child protection training for clergy, staff and volunteers; conduct diocesan inquiries into allegations that do require investigation by law enforcement; monitor clergy who are removed from ministry when allegations of child sexual abuse have been substantiated.
• Addressing concerns about financial transparency by providing a broader range of financial information available on the diocesan website. The information will include an accounting of the money paid to victims, the cost of legal fees related to clergy sex abuse and how much financial support the diocese is obligated to pay each year to support clergy removed from ministry because of substantiated claims of child sexual abuse.
• Creation of a Church Healing Commission to monitor progress of the five-point plan’s implementation. The commission will consist of as many as 12 laypeople who are Catholic and non-Catholic and include survivors of abuse and representation from each of the six counties in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
Zubik also is establishing an independent, third-party system for reporting concerns about suspected financial, professional, or personal misconduct in any parish, school, institution or office of the diocese.
• Steps to improve screening of seminary applicants, evaluating candidates for ordination and provide spiritual and psychological support to priests and deacons.
• Continue meeting with victims/survivors and hold eight public listening sessions each year on various matters of concern to Catholics.
Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tony at 724-772-6368, [email protected] or via Twitter .