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Archdiocese making progress dealing with abuse, official says

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BRIGHTON — The U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishop’s Audit results revealed that the Archdiocese of Boston received 67 new allegations of sexual abuse by priests or deacons in the last calendar year and was also in complete compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the child protection policy adopted by the bishops in 2002.

Father John Connolly, special assistant to Archbishop Se├ín P. O’Malley, said that the news of Boston’s full compliance was not surprising but was both “welcome and encouraging.”

"I think here in Boston, we recognize that it's just another of a number of indicators that demonstrate that the archbishop, and those who work with him in responding to the whole variety of issues surrounding the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, are committed to going in the right direction," he said.

The Audit Executive Summary for Boston states, “The archbishop or his representative has met with, or offered to meet with all victims/survivors who have reported allegations of abuse since the last compliance audit.”

It goes on to say that the archdiocese has directed outreach to faith communities, has a mechanism in place to respond promptly to allegations and made periodic public announcements.

The archdiocese has not entered into any confidentiality agreements and has reported all allegations of sexual abuse of a minor to public authorities during the audit period, the summary said.

"When sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or a deacon were admitted or established after an appropriate process in according with canon law, the archdiocesan policies provide that the offending priest or deacon be permanently removed from ministry," it continued.

The archdiocese also conducts background evaluations on all personnel who have regular contact with minors, it said.

According to Father Connolly, while the archdiocese is making progress in dealing with the sexual abuse crisis, more work remains.

"We have received positive assessments from the independent auditors, but we recognize that's only an assessment on two years of work, and there's a lot more work that needs to be done to address a problem that wasn't adequately or sufficiently addressed for many decades," he added.

"We recognize that we still have a lot of work to do to reach out to survivors of abuse and their families, we have to continue the education and prevention of such abuse in the future, so that we can assure every parent and every member of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Boston the children of the archdiocese are going to be safe and protected when they're in the care of any representatives of the archdiocese," he continued.

Dioceses such as Boston that were found in full compliance of the national audit for the last two years are not necessarily required to have on-site auditing in 2005, Father Connolly said. However, Archbishop O’Malley, recognizing that “trust is still in the process of being rebuilt,” has already requested on-site auditing next year. The archbishop wanted to bring in independent assessors of the situation to show that “things are going well here.”

The archdiocese received 67 allegations of abuse in 2004 involving 56 priests — 40 diocesan and 16 from religious orders. However, the “vast majority” of the alleged abuse took place before 1995, Father Connolly said. Only one incident of abuse was alleged to have occurred within the last four years.

From January to November 2004, the archdiocese spent $1 million on therapy and treatment for survivors of sexual abuse and their families, he said. In addition, the archdiocese also spent $5.8 million on settlements last year and $750,000 on the Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight, which educates children and adults about sexual abuse.

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