Editor’s Note: The following information responds to the requests from Catholics throughout the Diocese of Orange to better understand how the diocese has dealt with claims of sexual abuse in the past, what has occurred in our own diocese, and what policies are in place to create and maintain a safe environment for all.
Q. What was the Diocesan reaction to the release of Pennsylvania’s grand jury report on August 14?
On the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, the day after the release of Pennsylvania’s Grand Jury report, Bishop Vann wrote a letter to be read at all Masses the following Sunday. In it, he told us that he and other leaders of the Church have a great responsibility to take action against a predation that can only be called satanic.
Q. What definable action did he call for?
Appreciating the righteous anger expressed towards those who have failed to follow due process and the demands of accountability, he provided assurances that he is committed to join with his brother bishops to address these failings. He called for a competent independent national investigative body comprised of qualified professionals to review and address systemic issues within our Church. He was the first Bishop in the United States to pledge his financial support for this purpose.
Bishop Vann immediately decided to schedule a Holy Hour of Prayer for Hope & Healing on a recurring basis every first Tuesday of the month. The hour of prayer, held in the Arboretum on Christ Cathedral campus, includes adoration, prayer, and confessions.
Q. How has the Diocese worked to assure the safety of all the faithful—youth, young adults and adults?
Under the leadership of Bishop Kevin Vann, the Diocese of Orange is committed to protecting children and adults from all forms of abuse. This is the #1 priority!
Soon after being appointed to our Diocese in 2012, Bishop Vann began to meet regularly with our Oversight Review Board. Initially, the Board was responsible for advising Bishop Vann on matters concerning accusations of sexual abuse of a minor perpetrated by a cleric. Based on the painful experiences he had in his home Diocese of Springfield, Illinois which resulted in a devastating loss of trust, he decided to expand the responsibility of the Oversight Board to include reviewing allegations involving adults, not just minors, in order to create a safe environment for everyone the church ministers to.
Q. Who is on the oversight review board?
Since 2002, an Oversight Review Board has been in place. The majority of its members are to be lay persons not in the employ of the diocese. The board advises the diocesan bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse of minors and in his determination of a cleric’s suitability for ministry. It reviews diocesan policies and procedures for dealing with sexual abuse of minors, offering advice on all aspects of responses in connection with these cases. A list of all members and their backgrounds is available on SAFErcbo.org
Q. How did Bishop Vann respond to the 11-page testimony from Archbishop Viganò?
It was a challenge for Bishop Vann to read the 11-page testimony.
He believes the accusations should be investigated and, if proved accurate, that just penalties should be imposed upon those proven guilty. The goal should be to repair scandal and rebuild trust.
Q. How does one report abuse? What happens when someone calls the abuse reporting line?
We urge anyone who has been a victim of abuse in our Diocese to report the abuse first to their local law enforcement authorities and then our Diocese by calling (800) 364-3064.
• The Assistance Ministry Coordinator (AMC), (a mental health professional), retrieves reports and accompanying information from the (800) 364-3064 toll-free reporting line every day for review and appropriate response.
• As a California Mandated Reporter, the AMC’s first focus is to ensure that compliance with law enforcement and mandated reporting requirements have taken place, should the circumstances apply.
• Upon receipt of the report, the AMC will promptly respond to the reporting party and make contact with him or her to obtain information about the nature of the report and explain the report review process.
• After making contact with the reporting party, the AMC will inform the Director of Clergy Personnel in cases of ordained accused, the Director of Human Resources in cases of lay employee accused, and the Director of Child and Youth Protection in cases of lay volunteer accused—based on the nature of the report. The AMC will also inform the Oversight Review Board of all reported allegations against clergy, lay religious women or men, and employees and volunteers, so the Board may begin its review of the claim.