Diocesan Settlement Report
Report on the Resolution of Non-Monetary Agreements
December 29, 2008
1. Through a press statement to the secular media and through publication in The Catholic Key, the Diocese will continue to publicly acknowledge the wrongfulness of sexual abuse by the perpetrators and will acknowledge that its own response to reports of sexual abuse has, in the past, been wrong.
On August 20, 2008, the Diocese hosted a news meeting at the Catholic Chancery. Bishop Robert Finn addressed media representatives and stood for questions. The Diocese distributed the statement through wire services and on its Website. The August 29 issue of The Catholic Key carried "Diocese Settles All Clergy Abuse Cases" in a front-page report mailed to all subscribers. By September 12, a media audit confirmed 103,000 placements in local, regional, national and international media outlets.
2. The Diocese will continue its long-standing offer to provide counseling to all victims of sexual abuse and their immediate family members, at the expense of the Diocese. The plaintiffs collectively shall appoint an individual of their choice to act as an intermediary between plaintiffs and the Diocese in order to facilitate the provision of independent therapy for any plaintiff for a maximum of twenty-four (24) sessions.
The Diocese has had a long-standing policy of offering psychological counseling to any person making a report of sexual abuse. Counseling services also are available to family members. Individuals wishing to initiate counseling should contact the Vicar General, Msgr. Robert Murphy, or the Victim's Advocate, Leslie Guillott. The Diocese will need the name of the counselor and will write a letter authorizing up to 24 therapy sessions. The Diocese can provide the individual with a list of approved counselors, or the individual may provide Msgr. Murphy with the name of a counselor of his / her choosing.
3. The Diocese will not provide a reference or recommendation for purposes of prospective employment with respect to any priest, nun, deacon, lay employee or volunteer of the Diocese who has been credibly accused of sexual abuse. If the Diocese receives a request for such a reference or recommendation, the Diocese will respond that it will not provide such a reference or recommendation, except in the case where a lawsuit alleging sexual abuse has been filed, in which case the Diocese will inform the prospective employer of that fact.
The Diocese has noted in the appropriate priest personnel files the facts of the mediated settlement. The files include the following instruction: Do not furnish reference or recommendation. This procedure also is in place for lay employees. Should an occasion for reference or recommendation arise, this information will guide Diocesan response.
4. The Diocese will provide a letter advising state licensed professional counseling boards that Thomas Reardon has been the subject of lawsuits charging him with sexual abuse and other misconduct involving minors, and that the Diocese is therefore unable to provide a favorable reference or recommendation in connection with any application by Reardon for a license to perform counseling services.
Vicar General Msgr. Robert Murphy prepared a letter advising professional counseling boards that Thomas Reardon has been the subject of lawsuits charging him with sexual misconduct with minors. The Diocese furnished a copy of this letter to counsel for the plaintiffs on September 12, 2008.
5. The Diocese acknowledges that Father Thomas O'Brien is performing no public ministry, including the public administration of sacraments.
In 2002, Bishop Raymond J. Boland advised Msgr. O'Brien that he could neither perform public ministry nor represent himself as a member of the clergy. In September 2008, Msgr. Robert Murphy, Vicar General, revisited these restrictions with Msgr. O'Brien. Additionally, Msgr. Murphy requested a letter from Msgr. O'Brien acknowledging that he understood his restricted status. Msgr. O'Brien furnished said letter on September 30, 2008.
6. The Diocese will publish a pastoral statement that rites or sacraments performed or administered by priests or deacons are not diminished, flawed or tainted because the priest or deacon has been accused of misconduct.
In a column published in The Catholic Key on September 5, 2008,* Bishop Finn wrote:
"In the context of these recent weeks, I was asked to emphasize how the Sacramental actions of priests whose moral failures have become more clearly seen, are nonetheless preserved and guaranteed in the Church. . . .What we believe and teach in this regard is set out powerfully in our teaching. The validity of the sacraments is unquestioned, even despite the unworthiness of human and sinful ministers."
*See Jesus Priestly Power is not Nullified, Even by Unworthy Minister, carried in The Catholic Key.
7. The Bishop of the Diocese will send a letter to any plaintiff or member of plaintiff's family who requests such a letter, apologizing for the harm caused by the abuse and acknowledging that the plaintiff was not a fault for the abuse.
Legal counsel for the plaintiffs made direct contact with each victim to ascertain his or her desire for a letter of apology from Bishop Finn. At this time, Bishop Finn has written 118 letters of apology.
8. The Diocese and its representatives shall not refer to plaintiffs or other tort claimants and their claims as "alleged" victims, "alleged" survivors, or "alleged" claims.
The Diocese has complied and will continue to comply with this commitment. See, for example, the statement announcing the resolution of the civil lawsuits issued by Bishop Robert Finn on August 20, 2008.
9. The Diocese intends to initiate laicization procedures for former priests Thomas Reardon, Hugh Monahan and Stephen Wise and will consult with canon lawyers regarding these procedures.
Canon Lawyers for the Diocese have had initial conversations to explore the procedures for laicization as required under the Code of Canon Law. The Diocese intends to request laicization for Hugh Monaghan, Thomas Reardon and Stephen Wise.
10. The Diocese will continue to offer and implement a Victim Advocacy Program consistent with Virtus' guidelines, in order to maintain safe, strong communities for children and vulnerable adults.
The Diocese provides a Victim Advocate to offer confidential support to any person who makes a report of sexual abuse. Appointed in 2004, Leslie Guillot, M.A., currently serves in this capacity. Guillott is available to assist any person in making a complaint of abuse. Upon request, she arranges a personal meeting with the Bishop or his representative and provides support and resources for healing. Guillot maintains an off-site office and is available at (816) 361-2666.
11. The name and contact information of the Diocesan Victim Advocate will be published on the Diocese's Website and will be included in parish bulletins along with the names of parish staff.
The Diocese has posted a link on its Website for the Victim Advocate. In a communication dated September 22, 2008, the Diocese instructed all parishes to publish the name and telephone number for the Victim Advocate in parish bulletins.
12. The Missouri Abuse Hotline phone number shall be prominently posted in every parish school, office and workplace.
The Diocese has created this placard with the telephone numbers of the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline and the Diocesan Victim Advocate. The Diocese distributed these placards to each parish on November 6, 2008.
13. The Diocese shall prominently display in each diocesan school a placard stating: "The Abuse of the Spiritual, Emotional and Moral Development of the Young Men and Women of [name of school] shall not be tolerated." The placard will include the telephone numbers of the Missouri Abuse Hotline, the local police department, and the Diocesan Victim's Advocate.
The Diocese has developed a placard with the telephone numbers of the Missouri Child Abuse Hotline, local law enforcement, and the Diocesan Victim Advocate. Principals and directors received site-specific placards on October 9, 2008. Priests received site-specific placards on November 6, 2008.
14. The Diocese will continue to follow mandatory state reporting requirements and Virtus guidelines in reporting the suspected sexual abuse of minors to law enforcement and child protection authorities. At the request of the victim or other party reporting childhood sexual abuse to the Diocese, the Diocese will report such abuse to law enforcement and child protection authorities regardless of the age of the victim at the time the report is made.
Effective December 31, 2008, the Diocese revised its Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct to reflect the commitment by the Diocese, at the request of the victim or other party who makes known to the Diocese a claim of sexual abuse or misconduct, to report the abuse to law enforcement and to child protection authorities regardless of the age of the victim at the time the allegation is made known to the Diocese.
15. The Diocese will continue to require its priests, administrators, teachers, staff, coaches, volunteers and students to complete the Virtus "Protecting God's Children" training, or similar training performed and / or similar training performed and / or developed by outside consultants, for the prevention of sexual abuse and harassment.
Beginning in 2002, all priests, deacons, seminarians, principals, directors of early childhood education, teachers, school staff, coaches, youth ministers, parish school of religion catechists, and volunteers who interact with children were required to participate in a three-hour Virtus workshop. Protecting God's Children teaches the warning signs of abuse and offers strategies for taking action when abuse is suspected. Employees of the diocese also take part in regular safe environment continuing education. As of September 30, 2008 more than 13,000 people had participated in the training.
In September 2006, the Diocese mandated specific personal-safety curricula for all Catholic schools, religious education and youth programs. The curricula replaced programs which had been selected and implemented by each school. As of September 30, 2008, more than 16,000 children and youth were receiving personal safety training.
16. On our before December 31, 2008, the Diocese will adopt a whistle-blower policy providing that the Diocese shall take no retaliatory action against any person who reports in good faith the suspected sexual abuse of a minor by a priest, employee or other representative of the Diocese.
Effective December 31, 2008, the Diocese revised its Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct to include Article 6, Assurance of Non-Retaliation, which prohibits retaliation in any form against any person who in good faith reports sexual abuse or misconduct by a priest, employee or other representative of the Diocese, or who participates in an investigation of such a report.
17. The Diocese will not enforce the confidentiality provisions of any prior agreement with a sexual abuse claimant who now or in the future desires to make his / her claim public.
In March 2002, the Diocese distributed a public statement through the media that released any person who had been bound by a provision of confidentiality in a prior settlement agreement.
18. The Diocese has enacted policies concerning sexual assault, misconduct and harassment including procedural steps that will be followed once reports are made and to whom reports are to be made. The Diocese agrees to provide copies of those policies to counsel for the claimants.
The Diocese has provided copies of theses policies, including the revised Policy Regarding Sexual Misconduct, to counsel for the claimants.
19. The victims have requested that the Bishop of the Diocese personally visit any parish where sexual abuse of minors occurred. The victims have further requested that at these meetings the Bishop publicly identify the perpetrators, encourage other victims to report the abuse, provide an opportunity for discussion with the audience, and invite victims or their families to speak. The Bishop has stated that he will consider this or some other process that will achieve the same goal.
The goal is to demonstrate accountability, to create an atmosphere for healing and to bring about closure. In pursuit of this goal, in the presence of the plaintiffs’ counsel, the Bishop and/or members of his closest staff made themselves available to hear their accounts and to offer a personal apology. This provided an opportunity for the victims to be heard and, at the same time, respected the anonymity most of the victims desired.
Opportunities for counseling (see number 2 above) provide a professional and therapeutic setting for healing and enable the bringing about of closure, healing and reconciliation.
In order to engage the faithful of the Diocese more publicly in awareness of this significant time, Masses were celebrated in every parish of the Diocese, on September 13-14, 2008, for the intention of healing and reconciliation. Public prayers were offered for the intentions of the victims, their families, and all those involved with these sad and painful events. Bishop Finn publicized and celebrated one of these Masses at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.