On Tuesday, October 25, 2011, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an opinion article in their perspective column written by Fr. Jim Connell, from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, titled, “A way for bishops to begin building trust.” Fr. Connell outlined six steps needed to improve the Church’s response to the clergy abuse crisis. The complete article can be found at www.jsonline.com.
An audit is a review of action – financial, business, etc. – over a specified period of time. The Charter Compliance Audit is a process by which outside auditors review a given year (currently July 1 to June 30 of each year) to determine what actions have been taken by a bishop/diocese to ensure that the promises made in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People are being honored by bishops/dioceses. The audit is not intended to be the only means by which outreach to victims and safety measures for children and youth are supported.
Listed below, following each of these six steps is information the Archdiocese of Milwaukee wants Catholics and others in southeastern Wisconsin to know:
1) "Invite victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse into the audit planning process, both at the national planning level and at the local diocesan level. Indeed, the charter indicates that outreach to every person who has been the victim of clergy sexual abuse and his or her family is the starting point of the mission of the charter (Article 1). Similarly, the verification of the performance of this outreach should be the starting point of the audits of the charter, and the victims/survivors can help."
- There is an assumption here that victims/survivors are not part of the process. One component of the audit process is to put the auditors in contact with victims/survivors who want to be interviewed. Their confidentiality is protected through a phone interview process. Since the audit concentrates on a specific time frame – the previous year –to assess any current successes or failures, victims/survivors who made reports during that year are the focus of these interviews.
2) "Inform the local community at large before an audit begins that an audit of the diocese is about to begin and invite interested people, especially victims/survivors and clergy who have been accused, to contact the auditor to provide whatever comments the person might choose to make."
- Just as there is a process for interviewing those who made accusations during the time period of the audit, so also there is the opportunity to interview those who have been accused. The audit process also involves on-site visits to parishes and schools where the auditors may verify the statistics and reports presented by the diocese and also hear first-hand about the effectiveness of the steps being taken to ensure the safety of our children.
3) "Establish that part of what is audited in a Representation Letter, signed by the diocesan bishop, asserting that, to the best of his knowledge, his diocese is in full compliance with the charter. Such Representation Letters are common practice in the audit of businesses because the letter helps to place accountability directly on the chief executive. So it should be for the bishop of each Catholic diocese."
- In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, since 2002, the archbishop has issued an extensive and candid Accountability Report to the faithful that includes just such a statement about compliance with the Charter and Norms. As recently as June 2011, Archbishop Listecki issued a public letter of commitment to comply with the expectations of the Charter and to take every case of alleged sexual abuse of a minor by clergy of the archdiocese to the Diocesan Review Board.
4) "Require that the related Essential Norms be audited along with the charter. While the charter is a profound, important and morally binding document, it does not actually stand as church law. The Essential Norms, however, has been approved by the Vatican as church law to assure diocesan compliance with the charter. However, the scope of the audit as established by the bishops is of the charter only, not also of the Essential Norms. In other words, that which is legally binding on each diocese (Essential Norms) is not audited, while that which is not legally binding (charter) is audited. This must change."
- You can place the Charter and the Norms side-by-side and they cover the same material, so auditing one versus the other makes no difference – and makes no difference in the expectation and commitment of U.S. Bishops to comply with each promise in the Charter.
5) "Establish that the auditor is authorized to review all documents directly related to any clergy sexual abuse case, as well as any other documents that the auditor considers pertinent to the audit of each diocese."
- This is exactly what happens during the week of the audit. Various supporting documentation is supplied, just as would be done in a financial audit. The auditors ask for additional documentation if they need further proof of compliance, as would be the case, for instance, in spot-checking ledger entries in a financial audit.
6) "Publish the detailed audit report concerning each diocese, including the Representation Letter signed by the bishop, so that the public can have access to each report."
- The USCCB publishes the results of the audits each year.
In an effort to ensure that the USCCB and/or dioceses did not become complacent regarding the audit process, the firm conducting the audits was recently changed as is usually the case after several years of using the same financial auditing firm.
In addition, although the on-site audit is required every three years, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has requested an on-site audit be conducted every year as another way of demonstrating its commitment to child protection.
For more information about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s response to the clergy abuse crisis, please view the following sections of our website: