Bishop defends right to refuse participation in national audit

.- Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of Lincoln is asserting his episcopal authority and defending his prerogative to not participate in the U.S. bishops’ national audit of compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, reported Lincoln Journal Star.

The Diocese of Lincoln and the Melkite Eparchy of Newton, Mass., were the only Catholic jurisdictions in the U.S. that did not participate in the annual audit of compliance with guidelines on sex-abuse programs. Lincoln participated in the first audit, in 2003, but has declined to participate in subsequent audits.

In a March 30 statement, the bishop noted that the U.S. bishops’ charter on sex abuse is “only an advisory document” and participation is optional.

“The Diocese of Lincoln participated fully in the initial audit conducted by the USCCB and has exercised its right to refrain from further participation in an audit,” he said.

However, the chairwoman of the National Review Board appointed by the bishops, Patricia O’Donnell Ewers, called for “strong fraternal correction” of the two bishops for their refusal to participate.

In his response, Bishop Bruskewitz maintained that his diocese has always been in full compliance with the law and pointed out that the review board has no authority over bishops.

The Diocese of Lincoln does not recognize Ewers and her board “as having any significance,” said the bishop, citing the fact that some of the members of Ewers’ board “are ardent advocates of partial birth abortion, other abortions, human cloning and other moral errors.” The bishop named current board member Dr. Paul McHugh and former board member Leon Panetta.

The bishop’s supporters have indicated the diocese’s clean record on child abuse compared with other dioceses and praised the bishop for upholding Church teachings.

The diocese has a policy in place to protect children and to respond to any allegations of abuse. Background checks are done for all people who are employed by the diocese or by institutions, parishes or agencies which have any connection with the diocese. All people, including children and youth, are regularly instructed to report any incidents of abuse immediately. Any credible allegations are presented to the diocese’s own lay review board and then acted upon in accordance with canon law.

Bishop Bruskewitz has also questioned the existence of the National Review Board. “My personal experience with the Charter and the audit process has led me to conclude that it is fundamentally a costly and expensive undertaking that brings forward little result, at least as far as the Diocese of Lincoln is concerned,” he reportedly said.

He reiterated that the Lincoln diocese is in full compliance with all civil and Church laws and has implemented all norms issued by the Vatican for prevention of abuse.

“The Diocese of Lincoln certainly is concerned with the protection of children and has taken what it believes to be appropriate steps in this area,” the bishop said.

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