Bismarck Diocese releases list of priests with substantiated claims
BISMARCK, N.D. —The sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has called forth greater accountability and transparency of bishops and dioceses in the resolution of cases of substantiated claims.
Bishop David Kagan stated, “In the interest of transparency and accountability, I have chosen, as part of our ongoing process of reaching out to the diocesan community, to publicly identify those priests who have carried out ministry in the Diocese of Bismarck, and against whom there is a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor.”
The list of priests who have substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor was published on the website today at www.bismarckdiocese.com , as well as in the January issue of the diocesan publication, the Dakota Catholic Action, which was scheduled to be delivered to Catholic households the week of Dec. 30.
A substantiated claim is an allegation that a priest, deacon, monsignor or bishop sexually abused a minor during his appointment within the Diocese of Bismarck which the diocese determined is likely true.
The Diocese of Bismarck remains committed to reaching out to victims of childhood sexual abuse within our diocese as well as doing all that we can to protect our youth from harm. While one claim is one too many, the Church acknowledges her brokenness because of the action of a few and recognizes our responsibility for healing and reconciliation.
This commitment means that no diocesan clergy member against whom there has been a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is currently in ministry. Any diocesan employee or volunteer (clergy or lay) who is found to have a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor is permanently removed from ministry and employment. There have been no substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor alleged to have occurred after 1989 – a period of 30 years.
This commitment includes a diocesan Safe Environment program. All adults who work with minors in the diocese must complete Safe Environment Training. Upon completion, they agree in writing to comply with the diocesan code of conduct and authorize a background check. Thousands of background checks on adults have been conducted by the diocese since 2003.
Q. What information are you releasing and whose names are on this list?
A. This list contains the names of the clergy members against whom a substantiated claim of sexual abuse of a minor has been received by the diocese. The accused might have been a priest of the diocese, a priest of another diocese assigned to work in the diocese, or a member of a religious order assigned to ministry in the diocese.
Q. How do you define child sexual abuse?
A. It is the subjection of a child by any church minister or employee, to any sexual act that is in violation of the North Dakota Century Code.
Q. What are the criteria for inclusion on the list?
A. Clergy members are on this list if there was a substantiated allegation of child sexual abuse against them. This does not necessarily mean they were found guilty of a crime or liable for civil claims. Many of the allegations received by the diocese are from decades ago and were reported to the diocese many years after the alleged abuse, sometimes after the death of the accused.
Q. How is a substantiated allegation determined?
A. It is an allegation that a priest, deacon, monsignor or bishop, after considering all the available facts, sexually abused a minor during his appointment within the Diocese of Bismarck that the diocese determined is likely true.
Q. What should I do if I know of a child that is being abused or if I’ve been abused by a representative of the Diocese of Bismarck?
A. If you know of a child who is in immediate danger, call 911. Contact the appropriate law enforcement agency, which can help determine your options for making a criminal complaint. Complaints should be reported to the social services agency, Child Protective Services Department, in the county in which the abuse is alleged to have occurred or call the North Dakota Child Protection Program at 800-472-2622.
Additionally, make a report to the diocese. You can report online at: www.bismarckdiocese.com/complaintform, or by calling these numbers:
Contact the Diocese Chancellor Dale Eberle, Diocese of Bismarck, PO Box 1575, Bismarck, ND 58502-1575 or call toll-free 1-877-405-7435 or 701-223-1347 to file a formal complaint of abuse to the diocese. Complaint forms should also be available at your parish.
If you are an adult and have been abused by a representative of the diocese in the past, then you are encouraged to contact the diocese, no matter when the abuse occurred.
Q. What happens when an allegation of child abuse by a member of the clergy is received?
A. The diocese will conduct an investigation in the manner provided by canon law and diocesan policy. The diocese’s investigator will seek as much specific detail as possible in the initial meeting with the accuser to determine when and where the abuse took place, whether the alleged perpetrator is still in ministry and any other details. If available, additional individuals that can corroborate the allegation are interviewed, including the accused. If relevant, documents and other evidence is gathered and evaluated.
Q. What is the Diocesan Review Board and who is on it?
A. The review board has been established by the diocese to assist in reviewing matters pertaining to sexual misconduct. The board consists of at least seven people of outstanding integrity and good judgment, the majority of whom are in full communion with the Church. The vicar general and the chancellor serve ex officio. The lay members are not employed by the diocese and they represent professional expertise in psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing and law enforcement.
The review board advises the bishop in his assessment of allegations of sexual abuse and in his determination of ministry for the alleged abuser. This mainly takes the form of reviewing the allegation and the report of the investigator and subsequently providing recommendations to the bishop.
Q. Is this list complete?
A. This list is a complete and accurate representation of the substantiated allegations that have been made to the diocese against clergy for whom we have files. The list is based on an extensive file review. If substantiated claims are received in the future, the list will be updated.
Q. What files were reviewed and what time period did they cover?
A. The review included all the individual clergy files going back to when the diocese was created in 1910.
Q. Why are you releasing this list now?
A. The Diocese of Bismarck takes very seriously its responsibility to be transparent about sexual misconduct and abuse of minors by anyone within the Church. We are releasing this list as part of that effort toward our commitment to greater transparency.
Q: What does “faculties for priestly ministry permanently removed” mean for the priest or deacon?
A: The status of the priest or deacon changes. He now has the status of a lay person, not a cleric. He also has other restrictions placed on him that might not apply to other lay persons. So, for instance, a priest who has his priestly faculties permanently removed or has been dismissed from the clerical state may no longer exercise priestly ministry, including saying Mass in public, present himself as a priest, use the title “Father” or “Reverend,” hold pastoral and teaching positions in the Church, and receive the income he did as a cleric.
Q: Is dismissal from the clerical state the same thing as what is commonly called “laicization”?
A: Removal of priestly faculties or dismissal from the clerical state is a permanent penalty imposed in response to the commission of an ecclesiastical crime. This is what is often called “laicization” in common parlance, but which more properly should be referred to as a dispensation from the obligations of the clerical state. Among the consequences of his new status is the fact that he is not able to function as a priest or deacon or to present himself as one.
Q. What has the diocese done to ensure safety of minors?
A. As a Church, we should hold our clergy, staff and lay ministers to the highest standards. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People—in response to the reports of sexual abuse of children and young people by some priests and bishops—as a comprehensive set of procedures originally established by the USCCB in June 2002. In June 2003, the diocese produced a manual entitled Establishing Bonds of Trust. This manual, with revisions, contains documents pertinent to the protection of children and youth including the Diocese of Bismarck Sexual Misconduct Policy and Code of Conduct.
The charter mandated policies and protocols regarding the church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse of minors by clergy as well as standards for safe environment programs aimed at preventing future abuse. No other institution in our country has undergone such a comprehensive review and reform. We are grateful to victims who called the Church to exercise greater accountability in this area. At the same time, federal and state laws as well as government investigations must apply equally to all individuals and institutions that serve young people.
Q. What training do seminarians, or new employees, clergy and volunteers of the diocese receive regarding the diocese’s Safe Environment program?
A. All adults — employees, volunteers and clergy — are required to undergo Safe Environment training. Developed around the USCCB's Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the Diocese of Bismarck's Safe Environment Program is intended to make sure that our children and young people enrolled in Catholic schools or those who participate in church-related activities in our parishes are safe.
Students sponsored by the diocese who are studying for ordination to the priesthood to serve the Diocese of Bismarck and candidates for the order of permanent diaconate, are to receive appropriate screening, academic courses and components in their human formation. Such screening and training will be designed to assist the seminarians and deacon candidates on making moral choices in accord with church teaching appropriate to the order to which they will be ordained.
Q. How does the diocese ensure that priests from other dioceses, ministering here either short or long-term, are not a threat?
A. Every cleric from another diocese seeking to provide and practice ministry in our diocese is required to present to the bishop (through the office of the Chancery) that he is a priest or deacon in good standing with no known prior substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.