Published April 6, 2006
The Archdiocese of Atlanta has again been found in compliance with all the articles of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” following an audit conducted in November 2005.
Although it was not required, Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory had requested a full audit by the Gavin Group last year of archdiocesan safe environment and sexual abuse policies and practices and of how successfully the archdiocese has implemented the Charter’s provisions.
Archbishop Gregory reported the positive outcome of the 2005 scrutiny in a March 22 letter to all priests of the archdiocese. A national report on compliance was released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops March 30.
“I am happy to tell you that the archdiocese was found in compliance with every article of the Charter,” Archbishop Gregory wrote the priests. “The auditors told me that our archdiocese had ‘exceeded the expectations of the Charter.’”
However, he said, ongoing vigilance is needed to maintain a safe environment for children in every aspect of church life, and for this reason he sought the additional scrutiny in 2005 by the auditors. Because the archdiocese was found fully compliant in 2003 and 2004, only a review was required.
“I felt it was important for us to voluntarily request an actual audit rather than just a review as a way of ensuring that we continue to build the safeguards into our structures in the archdiocese,” Archbishop Gregory said.
“The archdiocese welcomed the third opportunity to have auditors from the Gavin Group evaluate our safe environment programs and to confirm that we are doing everything possible to provide a safe environment for children and vulnerable individuals who have been entrusted to our care.”
Archbishop Gregory was serving as president of the USCCB in 2002 when the national scandal erupted over clerical sexual abuse of children and youth and when the Charter was drafted and approved by the bishops and confirmed by Pope John Paul II and Vatican congregations. He thanked the clergy of the archdiocese for their efforts to implement all of the Charter’s safeguards.
“You are to be commended on your efforts to ensure that our success was possible. To each of you who went the extra mile on this initiative you have my deepest thanks, respect and appreciation,” he said.
At the same time, he underlined to the priests the critical aspect of ongoing attention to every detail in hiring and training those who work with children and vulnerable individuals and in making children and youth aware of how to respond to any inappropriate conduct.
“Even with the programs and initiatives developed, in place and approved, I rely upon you to ensure the Charter’s continued implementation,” he told the priests. “Your careful selection when hiring, recruiting and training employees and volunteers who will work with children and vulnerable individuals are an essential component of a ‘safe environment’ program.”
“Now we must not rest on our laurels,” he concluded. “I am committed to making practical improvements to our programs and procedures as we work day-in and day-out within the guidelines of the Charter. Your input will always be welcomed.”