St. Augustine Catholic Subscribe
home about columns blog advertising diocese of saint augustine contact us

Promise To Protect – Pledge To Heal
By Bishop Victor Galeone

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ:This month the National Review Board that was set up by the AmericanBishops will issue its report on the compliance of each diocese withthe Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The UnitedStates Conference of Catholic Bishops at their June 2002 meeting inDallas adopted the charter. Old wounds will be reopened as we revisitthe tragic matter of the sexual abuse of children by priests. Like you,I am both saddened and angered by anyone who would take advantage of aninnocent child – and most especially when it’s a priest. And so I writeto reassure you that our diocese is in full compliance with thepolicies set forth by the charter.

Thanks to my predecessor, our diocese enacted a policy in 1985 thatincorporated measures that anticipated the Dallas charter in all keyareas. Then in 1988, we finalized our policy and procedures for dealingwith and responding to allegations of child abuse. This included theformation of a Response Team, which is made up of members of ourdiocese to include laypersons.

In conformity with the charter, our diocese was audited in August2003. This audit consisted of five days of interviews with myself,various diocesan leaders, our attorney and parishioners, in addition toa thorough review of our policies and procedures. The audit found thediocese to be in full compliance with the charter.

In any instance where a credible allegation of child abuse has beenmade, involving a priest, we have acted in accordance with our policiesto include the removal of the priest from active ministry. There havebeen several child abuse allegations made since the initiation of ourpolicies in 1985 and they have been handled appropriately. All allegedinstances predated the initiation of these policies. Credibleallegations have been made against four priests assigned to thediocese. These four priests were removed from active ministry andremain inactive.

We have reached out to the victims and have offered to help them. Indoing so, the diocese has incurred less than $750,000 in expenditures,which include counseling fees, legal fees and settlements. These monieswere paid from general funds set aside each year as part of ourself-insurance fund.

I want to express my deep, deep sorrow and apology to anyone who mayhave been abused by a priest serving in our diocese or anyone else inministry. I ask forgiveness for the failure of those in authority whofailed to act promptly in removing any alleged offender from his post.We are committed to protecting our children, and I assure you that wewill continue to respond immediately to any allegation of abuse andwill strictly follow our policies and procedures in this regard.

I ask you to pray for the victims of abuse, for their families andfor all who are affected by these tragic happenings of the past. At thesame time, let us not forget our faithful priests who continue to servewith dedication in the midst of the cloud of suspicion that hasenveloped the church. May the Lord continue to bless you and all yourloved ones!

Bishop’s Message in the January/February 2004 issue of the St. Augustine Catholic magazine.

© 2009 St. Augustine Catholic | 11625 Old St. Augustine Road, Jacksonville, FL 32258 | 904-262-3200 | | CMS