A 10-person St. Cloud Diocese review board, headed by retired district court judge Elizabeth Hayden, is in place in the wake of the clergy abuse scandal.
The review board includes lay people and is similar to other boards in dioceses all across the nation. This panel has a consultative role in advising the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual misconduct of minors and vulnerable adults by priests.
“When an allegation is made, if the alleged abuse is current or has taken place within the past three years, it is reported to the civil authorities,” Hayden said, “including social services and law enforcement.”
In previous years, dating back to the 1960s, the Catholic Church typically addressed abuse by priests as an internal matter. Very few offenses were reported to civil authorities.
Later on it was discovered that several bishops who knew about abuse of minors and vulnerable adults reassigned priests from one parish to another where the misconduct started all over again.
In 2002, the Boston Globe covered the criminal prosecution of diocesan priests. This opened the floodgates across the United States.
Settlements of sex abuse cases, by thousands of victims, has surpassed $2 billion. Many Catholic dioceses, including those in Minnesota, have declared bankruptcy due to cases of abuse.
Review board chairperson Hayden, who attends Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, says her allegiance is not to the bishop.
“My role is not to protect or defend the diocese,” she told the diocesan newspaper, the “Visitor.”
“I want children and vulnerable adults to be safe. We as a review board will do anything we can to prevent abuse.”
Many review boards include teachers, attorneys, health-care representatives, law enforcement personnel, mental-health-care practitioners and victim survivors.
Ex-officio non-voting members can include priests who work at the diocesan offices and victim assistance coordinators.
“Having a diverse set of board members brings a variety of expertise to the table,” Hayden said.
“Each of us sees the need for clarity, enforceability and fairness to all parties. We do that by our listening and our commitment to ensure the safety of all children and vulnerable adults.”
OLV addresses abuse scandal
The Our Lady of Victory parish in Fergus Falls addressed the Catholic Church clergy abuse scandal the weekend of Jan. 12-13.
The Rev. Alan Wielinski, invited the Rev. Ernie Martello of Crosier Monastery in Onamia, to lead a Saturday morning discussion group and address parishioners at all three weekend Masses.
Lake Region Healthcare Chaplain Deb Forstner, a member of the OLV parish, was cofacilitator for the discussion group.
“This was an example of shared leadership with lay people in addressing this issue,” Wielinski said.
“Both Father Ernie and I, in preaching about the scandal, have been affirmed by listeners that this is necessary and appreciated by parishioners. This is a big step towards the healing of both victims and the church.”
Martello, while meeting Saturday morning with members of the OLV parish as part of the discussion group, said he “deplores these crimes and the pain suffered by so many people.”
During the three-weekend OLV worship services he expanded on the previous interaction with parishioners.
“I apologize on behalf of the church to all who have become victims and also apologize to you, as members of the parish, who are feeling anguish.”
Martello continued, “We face a crisis in the Catholic Church. It’s something we cannot ignore. We need to talk about abuse in order to bring justice to the victims.”
Members of OLV, after the Sunday 8:30 a.m. Mass at coffee tables in the parish hall, agreed with Martello who said lay participation can indeed help in the overall healing process.
“We continue to pray for all who have suffered from this scourge of abuse,” Wielinski said.
Tom Hintgen is a longtime Daily Journal columnist. His column appears Saturdays.