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Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
The following answers frequently asked questions about the disclosure of names of clergy for whom allegations of sexual abuse of a minor have been admitted, substantiated or determined or considered to be credible in the Diocese of Little Rock on Sept. 10, 2018. For more information, see the bishop's statement or contact us.
A: If you have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused by anyone, please first contact the civil authorities by calling the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline (800-482-5964). If the abuser is a priest, deacon, or member of Church personnel, then please call or e-mail our diocesan contacts: Dc. Matthew Glover, chancellor for canonical affairs at (501) 664-0340, ext. 361 or Laura Gottsponer, LCSW, victim assistance coordinator, at (501) 664-0340, ext. 425.
A: With the release of the report of the grand jury in Pennsylvania, people began to ask about the existence of such cases in Arkansas. Bishop Anthony B. Taylor believes people have the right to know, so he asked for a review of diocesan files of the priests who have served in Arkansas during the last 70 years, and he is now making the findings of this preliminary review public.
A: Actually, when he was bishop of Little Rock, now Archbishop J. Peter Sartain publicly disclosed similar numbers in 2004 following the 2002 clergy sex abuse crisis in Boston, but without releasing the names of known abusers over what was then the previous 50 years. (See “A Pastoral report to the people of the diocese,” Arkansas Catholic, Feb. 21, 2004) The reason our numbers in 2018 are so similar is there have been no further cases of abuse of minors reported to have occurred since then. We continue to receive credible allegations of abuse, but so far these have all been for crimes committed prior to 2002.
A: Archbishop Sartain (2000-2006), Msgr. J. Gaston Hebert (administrator 2006-2008) and Bishop Taylor (2008 to present) acted decisively whenever allegations were received — and all verified cases of offenses committed since 2002 have involved misconduct with adults or imprudent acts that did not rise to the level of sexual abuse (i.e., not crimes against children). The way allegations were handled by Bishop Andrew J. McDonald (1972-2000) and Bishop Albert L. Fletcher (1946-1972) is currently under review, especially since they served prior to the 2002 implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and most of the known cases occurred during their tenure.
A: The decision was made by Bishop Taylor, after consultation with and recommendation by the Diocesan Review Board.
A: Bishop Taylor asked for an internal investigation and review of all personnel files of clergy whom we already knew or whom we suspected had been credibly accused of child sexual abuse. That information was then shared with the Diocesan Review Board, which recommended its publication.
A: The diocese has hired Dr. Kathleen McChesney and her firm, Kinsale Management Consulting, to conduct an independent review of diocesan files. That process will occur over the course of this fall, and we hope to make those results public in December. The diocese will also continue its own internal review and investigation of all clergy personnel files. The diocese will present the results of that information to the Diocesan Review Board, which will then make recommendations to Bishop Taylor on whether there are additional credible allegations to be published. This list will then be updated with any additional credible allegations.
A: The diocese has already reached out to the Arkansas attorney general and has communicated this list and our plans for additional external investigations by Kinsale Management Consulting, as well as continued internal investigations. The diocese has expressed to the attorney general that it is prepared to cooperate fully with any investigation that she might request.
A: The list contains all the names of those clergy whom we have been able to identify to date. This is a preliminary list, based on our initial preliminary review and examination of files. Over the course of this fall, Kinsale Management Consulting will conduct an independent review of all clergy personnel files in conjunction with our own ongoing internal review, and this list will be updated accordingly at the conclusion of that investigation.
A: The diocese automatically covers the cost of all counseling and psychological care sought by any victim, including their immediate family members, if it is desired. It also covers other expenses and needs on a case-by-case basis, including needs that are not necessarily directly related to the abuse the victim suffered. In addition, in every case, the diocese offers a pastoral meeting to apologize on behalf of the church and to assist in the healing process.
A: If there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been abused, law enforcement is notified first. The diocese cooperates fully with any law enforcement investigation. At the conclusion of any law enforcement investigation, or if no criminal investigation is possible, then the diocese conducts its own investigation, including the possible hiring of an independent investigator. The results of the investigation(s) are presented to the Diocesan Review Board for a determination of the credibility of the allegation and to make a recommendation to the bishop. The bishop arrives at a decision based upon the investigation and the board’s recommendation. If the allegation is determined to be credible, the accused is immediately removed from ministry. If the accused is a priest, the bishop then coordinates with the Vatican in conducting a full canonical trial — and if that trial substantiates the allegation, then he is placed on permanent prayer and penance or laicized in a process through the Vatican.
A: When an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor by Church personnel is received, the first step is to determine whether the incident(s) could have taken place as described. For example, if an allegation is received that a particular priest abused a minor in a particular parish in a particular year — but that priest was not at that parish or was not in the country at that time or was not even ordained yet at that time — then this particular allegation could not be accurate. If, on the other hand, the incident(s) could have taken place as described, the diocese conducts an investigation as described above, and the review board (whose members act as independent advisors to the bishop) makes a recommendation as to whether the accusation is credible. In arriving at this recommendation, the review board takes into account a number of different factors, including but not limited to: whether there are other similar allegations; whether the allegation is first-hand (as opposed to second- or third-hand); whether there is any corroborating or supporting evidence on file or other testimony; the credibility of the complainant; and whether the accused has admitted guilt.
A: There are some allegations on this list that did not come to the diocese’s attention until after the priest had already died, sometimes many years after that priest died, thus limiting the diocese’s ability to conduct a thorough investigation and to give the priest an opportunity to respond. In such situations, a “determination” of credibility may not be possible. Nevertheless, in some cases the diocese considers some such allegations to be credible and has offered pastoral care and counseling to the victims, based on a number of different factors. Such factors include but are not limited to: whether there is corroborating or supporting information on file; whether the allegation is first-hand (as opposed to second- or third-hand); whether there is more than one such allegation with similar characteristics; and the credibility of the accusers.
A: A priest may be placed on permanent prayer and penance through a canonical process authorized by the Vatican. This status applies to a priest permanently removed from all public ministry while still remaining a priest. He is not permitted to administer sacraments, wear clerical attire or present himself publicly as a priest. He is asked to pray for healing and to do penance on behalf of those who have been abused. A priest in this category is regularly visited by a compliance monitor with professional expertise in monitoring of this type.
A: A “laicized” priest or deacon has been removed from the clerical state and returned to the status of a layperson. He is no longer considered or treated as a priest or deacon. “Laicization” is a canonical process through the Vatican.
A: Anyone under the age of 18 at the time the abuse occurred.
A: None of the clergy on this list receive any financial support from the diocese. However, even after a priest is laicized, depending on the circumstances the Vatican may require that the diocese help ensure that the priest’s basic necessities are provided for (e.g., health insurance or small retirement support).
A: As of the end of the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the diocese has paid $790,000 to settle claims by 5 individuals alleging abuse by Father John McDaniel. Of that amount, $250,000 was paid by the diocese’s insurance company, and the remaining $540,000 was paid from the insurance fund of the diocese. The diocese plans to update the amounts paid in settlements at the end of each fiscal year.
A: The Diocese of Little Rock has a Safe Environment Program with training, policies, and procedures designed to prevent and recognize signs of sexual abuse of minors. The diocese conducts criminal background checks of clergy, religious, employees and volunteers who have routine contact with minors. And these individuals are also required to undergo training to recognize and respond to potential signs of sexual abuse of minors. Finally, in all of our Catholic schools and parish religious education programs, minors are given age-appropriate education so they can know how to help create safe environments for themselves, and what they can do when they feel that a certain environment is not safe.