Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Auditors Find Archdiocese Of Atlanta Is In Full Compliance With Charter

Published January 8, 2004

My dear Friends in Christ,

Our purpose as a Church is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to make the kingdom of God present in our world. As baptized members of the Church, we all share in that mission in varying ways. A special duty rests on those who are called to serve the gospel in Holy Orders or as employees of the Church. When anyone betrays that trust, it hurts the church as a whole; when the person with a special duty betrays that trust, it hurts in an even greater way. This is especially true in cases involving the sexual abuse of children, the most innocent among us.

The past year has been especially difficult for our whole Church in learning about the extent of that betrayal of trust. Sexual abuse of minors by a relative few have shamed the thousands of us who strive to be faithful to the message of Jesus. The Church is struggling to work its way through with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and progress is being made.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has committed to a policy of zero tolerance of the sexual abuse of minors. That is a policy to which the Archdiocese of Atlanta previously committed and will remain committed. Our Archdiocese has worked since 1958 to define a just, equitable and efficient way to handle charges of sexual abuse of minors and to call all people to a full commitment to remain faithful to what Jesus would want us to do and be. The latest re-drafting of our policy by the Lay Advisory Board (“Updated Policy of the Archdiocese of Atlanta Concerning the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Individuals from Sexual Abuse by Church Personnel, August 2003”) solidified our stance and gave us the tools we need to continue to strive toward that goal.

As part of a national effort, the USCCB commissioned an independent group, the Gavin Group, to conduct an audit of all dioceses in the United States on the matter of compliance with the national Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and I am pleased to tell you that the audit indicates that the Archdiocese of Atlanta is in full compliance.

A separate study is being conducted by the John Jay School of Law in New York on the extent of the problem throughout the United States. When we have the results of that study, I will also make it public.

I am very pleased that the Gavin Group audit verifies that the Archdiocese fully complies with the commitment to eliminating or preventing such abuse, and to responding quickly and effectively if it should occur. I am especially grateful to the members of the Lay Advisory Board for all the work they have done in the past year to develop our policies and method of response, copies of which can be viewed on the Archdiocesan Web page.

Please continue to pray for our work that it may be effective in calling all people to the faithful following of Jesus and to provide an environment in which our young people can similarly grow in their discipleship, free of all fear or danger of being harmed or led astray. We echo the words of Jesus in speaking about the little ones: it is inevitable that scandal will come but “woe to the one through whom they come.” I call on all of us in the Archdiocese of Atlanta to heed those words and to work cooperatively to provide an environment in which all people, young and old alike, can grow in the love and message of Jesus.

Assuring you of my prayers and best wishes, I remain

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend John F. Donoghue
Archbishop of Atlanta