Report to the People of God of the Diocese of Salt Lake City

Friday, Sep. 14, 2018
Report to the People of God of the  Diocese of Salt Lake City + Enlarge
The Most Rev. Oscar A Solis D.D., Bishop of Salt Lake City
By The Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis
Bishop of Salt Lake City

My brothers and sisters in Christ,

Our Catholic Church is embroiled in a very shocking, painful, shameful sexual scandal that has brought so much anger, pain, doubt and even loss of faith in the Church and our faith leaders. The recent revelation of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Investigation has revealed the harrowing history and sinful deeds of some priests and bishops as well as the attempted cover-ups or omissions of some leaders of our Church who miserably failed in carrying out their sacred responsibility of protecting God’s children in their pastoral care.  

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City is committed to providing safe and loving care for young people in our parishes, missions, schools and other ministries. It is our serious intent to protect our children and to reach out to victim-survivors who have been abused by our clergy or other Church personnel so they can receive healing, justice, reconciliation and peace.

I humbly present a brief overview of the Diocesan Programs and Actions to provide pertinent information on how our local Church addresses and continues to respond in ensuring the safety of minors and young children under our pastoral care. This report provides statistical data on allegations of sexual abuse of minors that the diocese has received and processed. It includes the current policy known as the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” that defines the process by which our diocese handles the reporting and investigation of any allegation against priests, religious or church staff. We also observe strict implementation of the Zero Tolerance policy that calls for the immediate removal of offenders from ministry.

Our Church can never relax from seeking to provide a safe environment for our children by constantly requiring background checks of all priests, teachers, church staff and ministers in the parish and by providing extensive programs of education and training for priests, teachers and other Church workers to help ensure the safety of our children. We also provide children with age-relevant educational programs about sexual abuse and help them learn how to avoid and report questionable behavior.

In the Diocese of Salt Lake City, we take our sacred responsibility of protecting our children very seriously. We are saddened by and ashamed of the sexual abuse scandal in our Church. Some of our priests and bishops have committed harm and injustice to so many. On behalf of all my brother priests, and myself, I beg your forgiveness for their sins and failings.

I assure you of our sincere efforts in providing a safe place for our children. Your support is essential. Please join us in praying for all the victim-survivors and their families to find healing, justice and peace. Include all our priests so they may continue to strive to be true shepherds of Christ dedicated in caring for their flock. Most of all, pray for all bishops, so we can continue to be vigilant and conscious of our responsibility in safeguarding the precious life, sanctity and dignity of every child God has given us.

History of the Allegations of Clergy Abuse in the Diocese of Salt Lake City

In 1990, Bishop William K. Weigand of the Diocese of Salt Lake City issued a diocesan policy to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors that included investigating suspected abuse by Church ministers, reporting and removing offenders from ministry. He also instituted a strict policy to ensure that future allegations would be reported to authorities and that anyone found to have committed abuse – whether a priest, deacon, religious or a lay person – would be held accountable and permanently removed from ministry in the diocese.  

Allegations of Clergy Sexual Abuse of Minors

The following is a statistical report of credible allegations made against Church ministers accused of abusing minors from 1960 to 2018:

Since 1990, the Diocese received credible allegations of sexual abuse against 16 priests, one religious brother and one seminarian that involved approximately 34 victims.

– Sixteen of these 18 incidents occurred between 1962 and 1994, before the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” was established and implemented in 2002.

–  Two reports of allegations were received in 2002 and 2003 after the introduction of the Charter.  

– Four reports of sexual abuse that happened between 1951 and 1975 were received by the diocese between 2005 and 2010. These involved victims who could not remember which perpetrator (priest or lay) had abused them.  All victims were offered funding for therapy.

Most allegations were reported to and received by the diocese after the priest either had left the priesthood, had retired, returned to his country of origin or had died.

All allegations were reported to the Division of Child and Family Services and all victims were offered pastoral assistance with counseling and therapy.

After promulgation of the Charter in 2002, the Diocese of Salt Lake City submitted three cases to the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine and the Faith for canonical process as these crimes were reserved to their office and jurisdiction.

Two cases were confirmed by the administrative decisions of the Bishop and one of them, after a long procedural trial, was granted a dismissal from the clerical state or priesthood.

No further cases have been submitted to the Congregation on matters of sexual abuse of minors or the Congregation for the Clergy regarding special faculties granted to them in cases of dismissal from the clerical state or the priesthood.

Recently, this year, two others allegations of sexual abuse were reported against two priests. Both have been reported to the authorities; investigation is ongoing and both are under temporary suspension from priestly ministry.  

Present and Future Actions

Since 1990, the Diocese has responded and will continue to respond to the allegations of sexual abuse against priests and will faithfully observe the provisions of the 2002 US. Bishops “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” issued in Dallas, Texas.

1. In compliance with the mandate, the Diocese maintains the Office of Safe Environment to implement the following policies:

– Provide abuse prevention and reporting programs for both minors and adults.

– Screen adults through background checks of those who work with children in the Church or schools.

– Enjoin all parishes to have a Safe Environment Committee responsible for conducting background checks and training for all Church workers and other ministers; offer educational information and training on safe environment for both adults and children.

– Plan the observance of the annual Abuse Prevention Month in April to build awareness and education on this issue.

– Include other essential norms such as guidelines for prayer, reconciliation, healing, prevention of future acts of abuse and an annual compliance audit process. These norms, found in the Diocesan Administrative Handbook, have been in place, enforced, revised and strengthened over the years. Since the adoption of the Charter, the Diocese of Salt Lake City has been in full compliance when audited by the National Office.

2. The Church receives and treats any allegation or complaint of sexual abuse of a minor and other sexual misconduct seriously, prompting immediate investigation and reporting to the Department of Child and Family Services as well as to a law enforcement agency or police.

3. Upon receipt of an allegation, the accused is placed under temporary suspension from priestly ministry or administrative duties pending further investigation. The diocese extends pastoral outreach to the victims and their families that includes the practice of offering therapy to the sexual abuse victims. That an allegation has been received is also announced in the parish or parishes where the accused priest exercises or had been assigned to exercise ministry. As appropriate, accused priests are required to undergo psychological evaluation and treatment before any consideration of a return to ministry.

4. We maintain an independent review board consisting mostly of laymen and women with various professional backgrounds and experiences as well as some clergy. They help investigate and review all reported cases of sexual abuse of minors and other sexual misconduct, provide feedback and disciplinary advice to the Vicar for Clergy and the Bishop, including recommendations to remove a priest from ministry when it is appropriate.

5. We will continue to update, revise and expand the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ procedures and strictly adhere to its “Zero Tolerance policy” so that no priest or other Church minister – whether clergy, paid personnel or volunteer – found to have abused a minor at any time in their lives or credibly accused of such sexual abuse  will return to ministry in any capacity.

The Diocese of Salt Lake City is committed to carrying out this sacred duty responsibly and faithfully now and in the future. With your support, we hope to provide a safe environment for all children and everyone.

Furthermore, for the horrible sins of some priests against minors and the failure of some bishops in their responsibility to nourish and protect the little ones, we enjoin all our parish communities to do an act of penance and reparation. I encourage all parishes and Utah Catholic Schools to devote a time for prayer, healing and reconciliation. Let us gather our parish community every First Friday of the month from September to December of this year, or as the parish schedule permits, to gather for a prayer service – Benediction, Holy Hour or rosary – and remember in our intentions all victim-survivors, their families and our Church. Let us pray in this time of darkness, shame, anger and pain so God will bless us with His mercy and love and that justice and peace will prevail upon us. 

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