Thursday, March 15, 2007
Attorney General's office preparing release of abuse audit
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The annual, independent audit of the RomanCatholic Diocese of Manchester has been completed and the state'sAttorney General's Office is preparing to release the results nextmonth.
Undera 2002 agreement, the diocese agreed to annual checks in exchange foravoiding criminal prosecution. The 2006 report should be ready forpublic release in mid- to late-April, Senior Assistant Attorney GeneralWill Delker said Thursday.
''We're in the process of finalizingit,'' Delker said, noting the first audit was released last year andthe current results are in draft format. He declined to discuss theaudit's findings, but said new abuse allegations were made againstpriests last year.
''They (diocesan leaders) continue to get newallegations, and some _ if not most _ involve priests who we alreadyknew about,'' including some who have died, he said.
The RomanCatholic Diocese of Manchester on Wednesday released its own internalaudit, which said it made ''significant progress'' through betterscreening and training last year. The Diocesan Review Board said thediocese continues to report abuse allegations to civil authorities, buta church official wouldn't say how many allegations were received orpassed along.
The diocese was criticized in the past for failingto tell authorities about reports of abuse that were not deemedcredible or that occurred a long time ago.
More than four yearsago, the diocese acknowledged its conduct had harmed children and thatit probably would have been convicted of child endangerment, had it notsettled with the state and agreed to the audits.
In the pastfive years, 15,000 church employees and volunteers have been trained torecognize and report signs of child abuse, said the Rev. EdwardArsenault, who heads the diocese's efforts to prevent and report sexualabuse.
That policy has been updated to require immediatereporting to the state attorney general's office, as well as childprotection workers and local police when appropriate, no matter whenthe abuse occurred, Arsenault said.
The Diocesan Review Board's2005 audit found that not all churches and parochial schools had fullycomplied with screening procedures for clergy, employees and volunteerswho work regularly with minors. But as of May 1, 2006, all had beenscreened, according to the latest audit.
Those who work withchildren are required to complete a screening form, receive a copy ofthe church's abuse-prevention policy and undergo multiple backgroundchecks. They also must be trained on appropriate conduct and requiredreporting procedures, and attend a workshop on sexual abuse awarenessand prevention, according to the report.
The diocese also hireda compliance coordinator who visited all 108 parishes and 25 schools toensure the policy was being followed and that new employees andvolunteers are being trained quickly, according to the report.
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.Pedophilia and sexual abuse of children in Australia