Diocesan Review Board addresses confidentiality
By JOANNE FOX, Globe editor
Certain professions share certain privileges.
Attorney/client; doctor/patient; priest/penitent.
As the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Dallas Charter) marks 12 years, the vicar general of the Diocese of Sioux City noted the Diocesan Review Board also falls under this standard.
“We deal with very private information, because victims come to us whose identities and dignities we must regard,” said Msgr. Mark Duchaine, moderator of the diocesan board. “We also deal with the accused whose rights we must respect. So, we are protecting both the innocent and the accused in a confidential manner.”
The charter – the blueprint the church uses to ensure the protection of children and young people – was adopted by the U.S. bishops during their 2002 general assembly in Dallas , and diocesan review boards were part of the charter.
While the diocese has had a review board in place to assist the bishop in assessing clergy sexual abuse of minors and fitness for ministry since 1992, that board was renewed in 2002 in accordance with the Dallas charter.
Dr. Clayton Toddy, a Sioux City clinical psychologist, was invited to become a member of the review board in 2002 by Msgr. Duchaine and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, then Bishop of Sioux City.
“The greatest challenge in being associated with this board is dealing with the emotional pain caused by offenders who are members of the clergy,” he said. “That is tempered with the greatest joy which is working with the bishop, Msgr. Duchaine and other members of the board. We are all opinionated and verbal in communicating, respectfully, in our group.”
Gretchen Cooney, volunteer coordinator and bereavement assistant for Cherokee Regional Medical Center Hospice, acknowledged that knowing children have been hurt by members of the clergy is difficult.
“But knowing that others have been protected by the work we do is gratifying,” she said.
Deacon Joseph Straub of Whittemore, a retired district court judge, has served on the board since it originally formed in the 1990s.
“Investigating allegations of abuse against priests whom I have known is tough,” he said. “Expressions of gratitude from victims who have been helped by the diocese have been rewarding. It shows that our pastoral approach is working.”
Verna Welte and Martha Burchard, both retired from the nursing profession in Sioux City, agreed balancing the information from the victims and the abusers takes a great deal of wisdom in being fair.
“However, helping the victims to begin the healing process is a joy,” Welte said.
“Also, knowing our ideas and recommendations are heard and acted on is gratifying,” Burchard said.
Deacon Mark Prosser of Storm Lake pointed out one challenge the board faces is when a victim brings forth an allegation against a priest who is deceased.
“We hope in those cases, we can help the victim move forward in both their secular life and faith life,” he said.”
Mike Ellwanger, a Sioux City attorney who has provided legal counsel to the diocese since 1998, began attending review board meetings in 2002 to offer legal advice.
“I am not a voting member of the board, but I recall some difficult times when there were a a number of abuse allegations,” he said. “The most gratifying part of my involvement has been to see the response of the church, which was to initiate policies and procedures to do everything in its power to eliminate these horrible occurrences from ever happening again.”
According to Msgr. Duchaine, if an allegation is made, there is an investigation. Victim Assistance Coordinator Angie Mack gathers the facts and then reports to the bishop and the board.
There have been no allegations brought to the board in the last year. In the diocese there have been about 60 claims, with the largest number – 33 – presented in 2004.
Of the 2004 allegations, 22 involved Father George McFadden, covering the period of 1963-72. Father McFadden remains suspended from all priestly duties.
Total settlements were between $3 and $4 million and the diocese paid about $1 million of that. Nine of the settlements involved allegations against Father McFadden. The diocesan insurance carrier covered 60 percent of the cost. The diocesan share was 35 percent and Father McFadden paid 5 percent.
All costs associated with clergy sexual abuse cases were covered by unrestricted endowment earnings, estate gifts and donations made to the diocese.
Funds that were designated for other church-related purposes, such as the Diocesan Annual Appeal, were not part of any abuse case expense. In addition, parishioner's weekend mass collections to support their parishes were not used to pay any of the costs.
Msgr. Duchaine commended the work of the Review Board while expressing his sorrow over the abuse issue.
Diocesan Review Board members
Bishop R. Walker Nickless
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