A Diocesan Review Board member has commented on the recently released list of priests and deacons credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.
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In a statement released on Wednesday, Sep. 19, Donald Schmid, a member of the Review Board of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, wrote:
“The Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend has since 2002 instituted robust procedures and processes to keep children and vulnerable adults safe. More than 17,000 people who work or volunteer with children in the Diocese or Diocesan schools have received safe environment training and criminal background checks. The Catholic Church and its schools are safe places for children today.
“The Diocesan Review Board consists of talented lay persons with experience in law enforcement, prosecution, psychology, education, psychiatry, and law along with two well-respected priests. The Review Board has carefully advised first Bishop Darcy (prior to his retirement) and now for the last decade Bishop Rhoades on matters relating to accusations of sexual abuse within the diocese and the compassionate care of victims of sexual abuse.
“Bishop Rhoades has demonstrated great sensitivity and care for victims of sexual abuse, and has carried out a zero tolerance policy for priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors or vulnerable adults. In my experience, Bishop Rhoades has promptly and in all cases removed from public ministry and pursued canon law sanctions against priests under his authority where the allegations and available evidence warrant such removal and sanctions.
“The release of the list of priests who have been credibly accused and in some cases found guilty of crimes sexual abuse of minors is an appropriate step and part of a commitment to openness and transparency by the Church in this area. I am hopeful too that it will bring some solace and healing to the victims and their families.
“The published list involved priests who committed abuse prior to 2002, although victims continue to step forward courageously to report abuse from that era. The John Jay College studies, which were exhaustive research examinations into sexual abuse in the Church published in 2004 and 2011, demonstrate that the vast majority of sexual abuse by priests/deacons was committed in the 1960s through 1985, with its peak in the 1970s. Still, we will be ever on guard to prevent and forthrightly deal with any alleged current incidents of abuse.
”The Diocese of Fort Wayne –South Bend and the Catholic Church in the United States has implemented strong and effective policies and procedures to protect children and to report to law enforcement authorities any allegations of abuse. Simultaneously, the Diocese and the Church has worked steadfastly to heal the wounds of sexual abuse victims.”